SANTIAGO, Chile — Chile’s Congress on Wednesday approved the country’s first law authorizing civil unions between same-sex couples.
AFP reports that the law gives legal recognition to unmarried couples and grants them rights to receive pensions, enroll in health plans and inherit property from one another.
It also gives them greater standing in child custody cases.
The bill has now been passed by both houses of congress in the South American country, and goes to President Michelle Bachelet for final approval.
“We are happy that the state recognizes, for the first time, that a same-sex couple also is a family and deserves protection,” said Luis Larrain, head of the Fundacion Iguales, a gay rights group.
A separate bill, introduced in December, would amend the country’s Civil Marriage Act to define marriage as between two people.
Chile decriminalized gay sex in 1999 and the brutal killing of a gay man in 2012 set off a national debate that prompted Congress to pass a hate crimes law.
In South America, same-sex marriage is Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. Colombia and Ecuador recognize same-sex civil unions.