Chile’s center-right President Sebastián Piñera signed into law a bill legalizing same-sex marriage on Thursday, days after it was approved by Congress in a historic vote.
The law “puts all love relationships between two people on an equal footing,” Piñera said at a ceremony at La Moneda government palace together with LGBT activists, representatives of civil society, legislators and officials.
Lawmakers passed the law Tuesday, in a milestone for the conservative South American nation after a decade-long legal battle and with the country delicately poised ahead of a crossroads election this month.
“Today is a historic day, our country has approved same-sex marriage, one more step forward in terms of justice, in terms of equality, recognizing that love is love,” Minister of Social Development Karla Rubilar said after the vote.
“All couples who so wish, regardless of their sexual orientation, will be able to live love, marry and form a family with all the dignity and legal protection they need and deserve,” Piñera said.
Civil unions have been permitted in Chile since 2015, which affords same-sex partners many but not all the benefits of married couples, like the right to adoption.
The vote culminates a process that began in 2017, when the first bill was introduced, backed by then-President Michelle Bachelet. Chile is now poised to join over 20 countries globally with legal same-sex marriage, including Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica and Uruguay in Latin America.
“It is hard to believe that today we are taking this step,” said Rolando Jimenez from LGBT rights group Movilh, one of the major backers of the bill and which helped spearhead Chile’s push to legalize same sex marriage for more than a decade.
Chile has long had a conservative reputation even compared with its deeply Catholic Latin American peers. Still, a strong majority of Chileans now support same-sex marriage and Chileans have shown signs of moving left on social and cultural issues in recent years.