Update: Same-sex marriage, LGBTQ rights advance in Chile, retreat in Italy
Next up, some updates on the issue of same-sex marriage and, more generally, LGBTQ rights. This time with a bit of an international flavor.
On the Good News side, as of October 22, the nation of Chile recognizes civil unions for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. The bill, the product of four years' work, was signed into law on April 13 and went into effect six months later. These civil unions offer some of the rights of marriage, including being able to make health care decisions on behalf of their same-sex partner and to receive pension and survivor benefits. Same sex couples legally married outside Chile will be granted civil union status.
These are civil unions, not full marriages, but there are signs Chile may be moving in that direction: Back in January one of the two houses of the Chilean legislature actually passed a bill recognizing same-sex marriage - but the other one rejected it, leading to the civil union compromise.
South America is making some strides on this. Yes, I know the map is in Spanish; you can figure it out, including that the bar graph shows support for same-sex marriage in different countries. What's easy to see is that Chile is now one of six South American nations, representing more than 80% of the population of the continent, with some form of recognition for same-sex couples: Two have full same-sex marriage rights, while four have civil unions. And in one of those, Brazil, same-sex marriage has been approved, but the matter is on appeal, so for now it's just civil unions.
So there is progress and good news there.
Under the heading Not Good News, however, is the fact that about a week ago, Italy’s highest administrative court issued a verdict that in practical fact nullifies over 100 same-sex marriages that had been recognized there. That is, over 100 couples who had been married are suddenly unmarried.
The recognition of those marriages had resulted from some local Italian officials, including the mayor of Rome, having grown tired of the national government's intransigence on the issue. So they recorded same-sex marriages that had been performed legally outside Italy on civil registries, effectively recognizing those marriages. A lower court said that the marriages were valid unless challenged individually by the Italian government.
The new ruling, a victory for the anti-justice reactionaries, overturns that lower court decision, giving the central government the power to annul all those marriages in a single swoop, which it is sure to do since that's what it wanted to do all along. Italy thus remains the only mainland European nation to refuse to offer any sort of legal recognition to same-sex couples.
Interestingly, even here there is some thread of good news: This decision comes at a time when support for same-sex marriage is becoming a majority position in Italy: In a poll from a couple of months ago, 51 percent of voters said they would support same-sex marriage and two thirds, 67 percent, said they were in favor of civil unions.
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