SANTIAGO, Chile — Chilean president Sebastian Pinera on Thursday signed an anti-discrimination measure into law that makes it a crime to commit acts of hatred against persons because of their sexual orientation.
The law was approved in May after being held up in the Chilean national legislature by lawmakers for seven years.
Pinera had urged lawmakers to speed its approval after after the Neo-Nazi killing of a gay man, Daniel Zamudio, in March. Zamudio died three weeks after the attack.
Zamudio was found beaten and mutilated in a city park, with swastikas carved into his body.
The U.N. Human Rights office had urged Chile to pass legislation against hate crimes and discrimination after the killing. Many of the country’s citizens refer to the new measure, which enables people to file anti-discrimination lawsuits and adds hate-crime sentences for violent crimes, as the Zamudio law.
“Without a doubt, Daniel’s death was painful but it was not in vain,” Pinera said at a press conference, accompanied by Zamudio’s parents.
“His passing not only unified wills to finally approve this anti-discrimination law but it also helped us examine our conscience and ask ourselves: have we ever discriminated someone? … After his death we’ll think twice, thrice or four times before we fall prey to that behavior.”
Chilean police arrested four men aged between 19 and 25 shortly after the attack — Patricio Iván Ahumada Garay, Fabián Alexis Mora Mora, Alejandro Axel Angulo Tapia and Raúl Alfonso López now face charges of second-degree homicide.
The Roman Catholic Church, which maintains a strong influence over Chilean society, had expressed concerns about the law, but LGBT and human rights activists hailed the measure as a step toward equality.
“This law is a giant leap toward creating tools that can prevent and punish discrimination,” Gay Liberation and Integration Movement President Rolando Jimenez told the Associated Press.
“There’s still a lot to be done and we need the institutions to enforce it,” he said.