In a rather incredible ceremony Friday, the government of Chile apologized to Karen Atala, a lesbian mother who sued in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, to retain custody of her children. The ceremony was led by Chile’s chief justice with several other senior government officials present.
If you missed it (as I did because I was stuck in Mexico City traffic…), the video is here. More on the significance of Atala’s case—which established that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a violation of the American Convention on Human Rights—is here.
The apology was made under court order, but it’s amazing to note how much LGBT politics have shifted in Chile since Atala brought her suit. A national non-discrimination law has passed, due to the horrific murder of Daniel Zamudio; Chile’s first openly gay politician was elected to office, Providencia Councilman Jaime Parada Hoyl; and a civil union law is supported by President Sebastián Piñera and is being debated by the country’s legislature.
Last week, I spoke with Ciro Colombara, a lawyer for the LGBT rights group MovilH, who told me that couples’ rights is shaping up to be a major issue in the presidential campaign just getting started. Although the conservative candidates are backing Piñera’s weak civil union proposal—known as Acuerdo de Vida en Pareja—most of the opposition candidates are in support of equal marriage rights, Colombara said.
A 2011 survey showed that only 33.8 percent of Chileans support same-sex marriage, but that 54.7 percent considered homosexuality a “valid” life choice.
The road ahead for any partnership proposal is murky, however. Colombara explained that a faction of conservative lawmakers won’t allow AVP to advance without also amending the constitution to explicitly ban same-sex marriage, and there aren’t the votes for that amendment.
“It requires a supermajority of the Chilean parliament to amend the constitution, but they don’t have the votes, so the whole package is on standby,” Colombara said. But after the elections, he predicts, “it’s possible to think seriously about a project for equal marriage.”