Chile's President Bachelet sends gay marriage bill to Congress

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SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chilean President Michelle Bachelet on Monday sent Congress a bill that would legalize gay marriage, a move that follows a string of liberal reforms in one of Latin America’s most conservative nations.

In 2015, Chile’s Congress approved same sex civil unions after years of legislative wrangling. In March, Bachelet, a center-left politician, pledged to send a full marriage bill to legislators before the end of the year.

“We do this with the certainty that it is not ethical nor fair to put artificial limits on love, nor to deny essential rights just because of the sex of those who make up a couple,” Bachelet said in Chile’s La Moneda presidential palace.

Just last week, a Chilean court gave the green light to a law passed in July that will allow abortion in limited cases. Before that, Chile was one of only a handful of countries in the world that outlawed terminating a pregnancy in any situation, including when a woman’s life was in danger.

Bachelet’s push for marriage equality also comes as countries across the region are expanding gay rights. Same-sex marriage has been legalized in recent years in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Mexico, despite the powerful influence of the Catholic Church, which opposes such unions.

It was not immediately clear if Bachelet will be able to push the gay marriage bill through Congress before she leaves office in March 2018.

Though her Nueva Mayoria coalition has a congressional majority, it is severely fractured ahead of elections in November and several members of the coalition hold socially conservative views.

Reporting by Gram Slattery; Editing by Paul Simao