Jun 262012
Marcha por la Igualdad y la Diversidad sexual

This Sunday, the 12th “Marcha por la Igualidad” took over the streets of a sunny Santiago, gathering 80,000 people supporting LGBT rights and promoting further equality for homosexuals in Chile.

“When the family supports, society does not discriminate” was the motto of this year’s march, organized by the Movement of Homosexual Integration and Freedom (Movilh).

Families and friends gathered in Plaza Italia at the heart of Santiago at 2 p.m., where many of them assembled creative displays to entertain the crowd. When the march took off one hour later, the demonstrators were equipped with an array of interactive accessories, such as a huge closet that people could walk in and out of, to encourage people to “come out of the closet” without having to feel ashamed about it.

Though decidedly festive in nature, the celebration was also very bittersweet. Chile’s LGBT community has at once been mourning the tragic death of Daniel Zamudio, young man beaten to death by neo-Nazis due to his sexuality, and celebrating the resulting passage of Chile’s first antidiscrimination law, which will create harsher legal penalties for hate crimes once President Sebastián Piñera signs it into law in what should be a matter of weeks.

Many politicians participated and spoke to the audience, including Education Minister Harald Beyer, Socialist Sen. Isabel Allende, and the ex-Finance Minister, Andres Velasco, who is also a candidate for president in 2014.

“We have made some steps, but we need much more” Velasco said. “It is incredible that we took seven years in Congress to have an antidiscrimination law, which was approved only when we saw a young Chilean man tortured to death only three blocks from here.”

After the antidiscrimination law, the LGBT rights movements are now campaigning for the AVP, el “Acuerdo de Vida de Pareja”, that would formally recognize homosexual couples and grant them the same rights as heterosexual ones.

“I have always supported gay marriage” said Harald Beyer. “Societies need to gradually move forward, and this government has taken the AVP as a first step to keep moving forward to have a more equal society.”

The march went through downtown Santiago and ended just behind La Moneda presidential palace, where many famous Chilean artists and performers put on a show that entertained a very peaceful crowd until 9 p.m.

“Being a part of this march has given me excitement and hope,” Ben de Vore, a Harvard student interning at Movilh said. “Even in a socially conservative country like Chile, progress is being made for individuals and families in the LGBT community. The strong support today firmly validates that sentiment.”

Maria Giulia Agostini