Chile is celebrating as same-sex couples will be heading to the registry offices to enter into civil unions today (22 October).
Hundreds of couples are expected to take advantage of the new laws that guarantee them many, but not all, of opposite-sex married couples.
One couple that will be heading to the registry office today is Roxana Ortiz and partner Virgina Gomez.
‘I’m really proud that we can obtain something in my country…that we acquired in Spain more than six years ago,’ she told Reuters. ‘Because it was really sad to arrive in Chile and see that we were nothing.’
Government spokesman Marcelo Diaz said the law ‘was unthinkable a few years ago’ in Chile, one of the most Catholic countries in South America.
As many as 2 million people are co-habiting and can now have their unions legally recognized. As many as 1,600 couples have signed up to get a civil union today.
Chile only legalized divorce in 2004 and abortion is still banned.
While only a quarter of people support same-sex marriage, a majority is in favor of civil unions with the law gaining cross-party support. LGBTI rights activists hope that as people get used to the idea of committed same-sex couples in legal unions, it will not be long before Chile joins Argentina and Uruguay in allowing same-sex couples to get married.