With drag queens stomping in their stilettos and adults, teens and children waving rainbow flags, more than 50,000 people paraded through Santiago de Chile on Saturday in support of gay rights in the annual March for Sexual Diversity.
“I’m here to continue fighting for our rights so that people understand us and accept us,” Alejandro Soto, 26, said.
The march celebrated gay pride and sought to galvanize support for Chile’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (Movilh), the rally’s organizer, was also demanding an anti-discrimination law to protect LGBT Chileans and recognition of civil unions for homosexual couples, a campaign promise of President Sebastián Piñera.
Together, the group marched from Plaza Italia to Paseo Bulnes, singing along to American pop star Lady Gaga, cheering on a group of drag queens dancing on top an 18-wheeler and shouting slogans in support of civil unions.
Andrea Orellana, 37, said despite Saturday’s strong turnout, Chile still has a long way to go. She said homosexuals are still seen as “sick people.”
“The situation here in Chile is that homosexuals still have very little acceptance by society because it’s a very conservative state with a very influential Catholic Church,” she said.
The fight for civil unions took a higher precedence than usual after Chile’s government took on the issue this fall. The Acuerdo de Vida en Común (AVC) project, which is still under debate, aims to establish civil unions for unmarried couples, regardless of sex, and grant them nearly all legal rights of married couples in terms of security, inheritance and health benefits.
The event also attracted families with some marchers even carrying their kids on their shoulders. Meanwhile, others marched hand-in-hand with their mothers.
Rodrigo Nanjari and his partner Jaime Munoz each brought their mothers to the rally to support them and their demand to have equal rights.
“I think it’s important for the politicians to realize that we’re here, we’re part of the community and it’s important to know that we need rights,” 36-year-old Nanjari said.
New York State passed its own gay marriage law, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed late Friday night. That law will take effect on July 24, allowing gays and lesbians to marry.
Many participants in the march hoped New York’s passing would help encourage Chile to follow in its footsteps.
The march also brought out its share of politicians. Senators Ximena Rincon and Isabel Allende and Deputies Pepe Auth and Sergio Aguilo all attended. Famous Chilean writer Pablo Simonetti also attended to support the cause.
Movilh released a statement shortly after the event, praising all of those who attended.
“We are very happy for the beautiful and exciting day” Movilh transsexual activist Paula Dinamarca said. “Each one of the hearts of those who attended will keep a memory of this that will be hard to forget”.
By Nathan Frandino – The Santiago Times