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Chilean Lawmakers Begin Debate on Same-Sex Marriage Bill

Chilean lawmakers on Monday began to debate a bill that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Members of the Chilean Senate's Constitution, Legislation and Justice Commission began to consider the measure nearly three months after President Michelle Bachelet introduced it. She signed the country's civil unions law that took effect in October 2015.

The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, a Chilean LGBT advocacy group, in 2012 filed a lawsuit with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of three same-sex couples who are seeking marriage rights in the country. Bachelet's government agreed to introduce a bill that would extend marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples as part of an agreement it reached with the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation in June 2016.

Rolando Jimenez, president of the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, told the Washington Blade last month during an interview at his office in the Chilean capital of Santiago that up to 70 percent of Chileans support same-sex marriage. He nevertheless added there is "still no absolute majority support for marriage equality."

Former President Sebastian Pinera, who won the first-round of Chile's presidential election that took place on Nov. 19 opposes same-sex marriage. He will face off against Alejandro Guillier -- a candidate for Bachelet's center-left Nueva Mayoria coalition who supports same-sex marriage -- in the Dec. 17 runoff.

More than 60 of the 155 candidates who were elected to the Congress on Nov. 19 are members of the Nueva Mayoria or the left-wing Frente Amplio party. The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation and Fundacion Iguales, another Chilean advocacy group, applauded the results and noted the majority of the Congress now supports marriage rights for same-sex couples and a bill that would allow transgender adults to legally change their name and gender without undergoing surgery or going before a judge.

"Marriage equality is effectively egalitarian," Fundacion Iguales President Juan Enrique Pi told the Blade last month during an interview at his Santiago office. "We can get married. We can adopt."

U.S. ambassador attends Santiago LGBT rights march

More than 100,000 people marched in support of the same-sex marriage and trans rights bill in Santiago on Saturday.

Guillier, U.S. Ambassador to Chile Carol Perez and Chilean Social Development Minister Marco Barraza are among those who took part in the march. Pinera did not attend.

The U.S. Embassy in Chile on its Twitter page posted a picture that shows Perez marching with other diplomats who were holding a banner that read, "diplomats committed to LGBTI human rights" and speaking to march participants. The embassy also thanked the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation for organizing the event.

"A great space to keep promoting LGBTI rights," it wrote.

This article originally appeared in the {URL Washington Blade http://www.washingtonblade.com/} and is made available in partnership with the National Gay Media Association.