SANTIAGO – Gay and straight couples will be able to give their relationships legal status starting next October by means of the Civil Union Agreement, thanks to the law enacted Monday by President Michelle Bachelet.
The legislation creates the civil state of legal cohabitation, with new inheritance rules for couples who opt for this union, whether or not they are of the same sex.
The purpose is to provide inheritance and civil rights protection for unmarried partners and legalize their life together in a stable, permanent way.
“This is a day when we progress as a society... we are taking a fundamental step forward in rights, justice, and respect for individual freedom,” the president said during the enactment of the law at La Moneda Palace.
The agreement “recognizes and strengthens the ties of cohabitation,” Bachelet said, adding that “Chile is estimated to have 2 million people cohabiting.”
“Today we provide the option for such unions to have legal status, and with that we progress in dignity, well-being and in the protection of all our families,” she said.
“What we are doing is opening the arms of all our institutions that once appeared unapproachable, to welcome and protect the men and women we have shunted aside,” she said.
Under the new law, cohabiting couples will be considered a family, so that if one member of the couple dies who has children, the other will get custody of them.
Granting legal recognition to cohabiting couples was one of the promises of the 2010-2014 government of Sebastian Piñera, but opposition from within the president’s own rightist coalition derailed the initiative.
In her presidential campaign and after taking power in March 2014, Bachelet promised to proceed with the bill and give it the necessary urgency in Congress, by which she managed to have it passed during the first year of her term in office.