Status of Marriage Law

Civil marriage for same-sex couples.

History of Pro-Marriage Efforts

A discussion around civil marriage for same-sex couples has been ongoing in the top levels of government since at least 2006, when both presidential candidates expressed support for recognizing same-sex couples through civil union.  

In 2010 several different types of relationship recognition legislation was proposed, including a marriage bill, common law recognition bill, and a civil union bill. None of them passed that year, but the variety seemed to splinter lawmakers and draw away support for outright marriage. Discussion continued for years, including vocal support (for civil union) from President Piñera and President Bachelet. A civil union law passed in 2015 and took effect October 22, 2015. Both same-sex and different-sex couples have registered under the civil union law.

In 2015 the Chilean Government (under Bachelet) and LGBTQ activists signed an agreement with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to avoid litigation before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, with the Chilean government pledging to pass the freedom to marry.

In 2017 Bachelet introduced pro-marriage and pro-adoption legislation, submitting it to the Chilean Congress, which took no action on the legislation. It failed to pass before March 2018, when the second government of President Sebastián Piñeras was inaugurated.

In June 2021, conservative president Sebastián Piñera announced his support for civil marriage for same-sex couples – committing to prioritizing its passage in the upcoming session of the National Congress.

On December 9, 2021, President Piñera signed into law legislation extending civil marriage to same-sex couples in Chile, following passage in both chambers of the National Congress with overwhelming support. The bill is scheduled to go into effect 90 days after publication in the government’s official bulletin, at which point same-sex couples will be able to apply for a marriage license like any other couple.

Status of Other LGBTQ-Related Laws

  • Homosexuality is decriminalized in Chile and has been since 1999.
  • LGBTQ people have positive protections from discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
  • Same-sex couples have roadblocks to legally adopting children.
  • In November 2018 President Piñera signed a law permitting transgender people to change their gender and name for the purpose of government recognition. Earlier in 2018 the Chile Supreme Court ruled the same way, easing the passage of the legislation.

Pending Marriage Litigation

  • On May 15, 2012, the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (“Movilh”) submitted a complaint to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (“IACHR”) against Chile after the Supreme Court of Chile denied an appeal to protect three same sex couples as the Civil Registry denied their right to marriage. The IACHR found the case admissible and move it forward to the IACtHR in April 2013.  
  • LGBTQ activists brought a lawsuit against the Chilean government with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in 2012, under Piñera’s presidency, who opposed the lawsuit. When Bachelet became president again in 2014, she agreed to drop the government’s opposition to marriage and work toward a legislative solution. 
  • An appeals court in 2016 rejected a marriage lawsuit, saying that there is no judicial path toward the freedom to marry and the Chilean Congress must pass the law.
  • A ruling from the Chile Supreme Court in December 2018 found, “Las normas constitucionales y la convención internacional disponen que toda persona que habita el Estado de Chile es titular del derecho a contraer matrimonio y fundar una familia.” (Loosely translated “The constitutional norms and international conventions require that each resident of Chile is entitled to the right to marry and form a family.”). The Court called marriage a “Derecho Humano” (Human Right). Activists believe this paves the way for civil marriage for same-sex couples.