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Chile: You May Now Kiss the... Partner
Valentine's Day LGBT wedding in Plaza de Armas, Santiago
Michael Solis (msolis)     Print Article 
Published 2009-02-17 14:18 (KST)   
Crowd gathering in Plaza de Armas, downtown Santiago
©2009 M. Solis
On Feb. 14, Valentine's Day, Santiago's Plaza de Armas was the setting of something never before seen in Chile: a mass wedding for the country's sexual minorities.

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The wedding was organized by the Unified Movement for Sexual Minorities (MUMS). MUMS is an NGO dedicated to advocating for the human rights of lesbians, gays, transsexuals, bisexuals, and all others who feel underrepresented in a society that the organization characterizes as heteronormative, patriarchal, and machista. Operating since 1991, MUMS served as the first instance of activism against discrimination in Chile and provided LGBT individuals with a network for promoting the rights they felt they had been denied.

The Valentine's Day event, called "Love in Colors", took place in front of the Metropolitan Cathedral on Saturday, beginning at 11 a.m. and ending at approximately 3 p.m. Five couples were symbolically married to represent the acceptance of the diversity of loving partnerships. An animated woman from MUMS dressed as a male-priest performed the services.

According to Alejandro Osorio, coordinator of the organization's Human Rights Team, "The purpose of the event was to highlight the logical demand for equal rights, the recognition of same-sex couples, and the possibility of having the right to matrimony."

Exchanging rings on Valentine's Day
©2009 M. Solis
Throughout the day, MUMS members passed out informational flyers and condoms to pedestrians walking through the plaza. Thousands of people stopped by to observe the wedding, listen to music, and watch the comedic performances of two transvestite MUMS members. In between events, pop and hip-hop music blared through the plaza, inspiring many onlookers to dance. Several social organizations, such as Amnesty International, also participated with informational stands set up around the plaza.

The proceedings were accepted warmly by a generally curious and smiling public. There were no disturbances or demonstrations against the wedding or the participants.

MUMS members celebrating
©2009 M. Solis
The members of MUMS, a diverse group of LGBT individuals along with some heterosexual allies, seeks to engage in reflective discourse on the legal and cultural elements that have defined alternative sexual lifestyles as abnormal, a concept that has resulted in systematic segregation and characterized the heterosexual model as the only valid one.

MUMS has a list of several concrete demands, which includes advancing an anti-discriminatory law currently being discussed by the parliament. MUMS insists that the law be revised to explicitly include sexual minorities, which would provide legal protection to LGBT people from discrimination in the work place and acts of violence. However, the revision has been met with opposition from right-wing congress members and social sectors, especially the Catholic Church.

Only recently has MUMS campaigned for the right to marry. The movement demands that the Chilean government alters the appropriate constitutional article so that marriage is between "two persons" rather than between "man and woman," as the article currently stands.

Although there are MUMS members who do not believe in the institution of marriage, the organization has decided that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, should be afforded the right to marry. MUMS envisions the LGBT wedding on Valentine's Day to be an annual, symbolic event that, while informal in nature, will be performed every year until the LGBT community achieves the formal right to marry.

Legislation for civil unions was presented to Chile's National Congress in 2006. Despite President Michelle Bachelet's previously expressed support for civil unions, the legislation for allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil unions has been stalled, again by the Catholic Church and several right-wing congress members.

According to MUMS President Fernando Munoz, "In Chile there is a lack of political will to change things. Cuba, for example, has just legally approved of sex changes, as has been done in Brazil. All in Cuba there is a national forum on sexual diversity, which shows that Cuba is incorporating the LGBT world and with public funding. Colombia and Mexico, with rightist governments in charge, have laws against discrimination that are much better than the one proposed in Chile -- they are more complete and come equipped with resources, infrastructure, and the creation of national commissions against discrimination."

MUMS Banner in Plaza de Armas, Santiago
©2009 M. Solis
"There are nations that are very different from Chile, a progressive and developing country, which have policies and legislation that are much more accepting of the LGBT community," Munoz added. "This proves that it one thing to talk and it is another thing to act, because so much has been spoken but nothing has been done."

MUMS hopes the Valentine's Day LGBT wedding will inspire the Chilean state to take swift, progressive, and transformational action to honor the human rights of all its citizens.

"This event has been wonderful," said a Chilean observer named Anabela. "I think every individual should be free to live his or her own way of life."
©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Michael Solis

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