* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.Chile joins more than 20 nations to legalize same-sex marriage
By Anastasia Moloney
Dec 8 (Openly) - Lesbian and gay couples celebrated in Chile after winning a decades-long fight for the right to wed, joining more than 20 other nations that have legalized same-sex marriage.
"I feel so happy. I feel proud. Finally our country, Chile, recognizes the dignity of our family," said Claudia Aravena, a 42-year-old teacher from the Chilean capital of Santiago.
She spoke to the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Tuesday after
Chile's Congress passed a law to legalize same-sex marriage, a milestone for the conservative South American nation.
The government said the "historic" vote set Chile on a path towards greater equality, recognizing younger voters' growing support for equal rights.
Minister of Social Development Karla Rubilar applauded Congress for taking "one more step forward in terms of justice, in terms of equality, recognizing that love is love."
Aravena agreed, saying that life with her long-term partner Lorena Grez and their toddler now had a new legitimacy.
"As a couple and parents of our daughter we weren't recognized. We were invisible. We did not exist."
"It's like not existing. We have all the same obligations in society but not the same rights. Our rights were denied," she said by phone from the Chilean capital.
Tuesday's vote came after a decades-long fight pitting new voices against old in the largely Catholic nation of 19 million.
Aravena said the breakthrough would give her family the same status as any other in Chile, with a wedding now to plan.
"The law recognizes our right to equality and dignity - that we're not an invisible family. It means a lot.
"We'll get married in a ceremony with friends and family."
Under the measure, gay couples can marry and adopt children.
Outgoing center-right President Sebastian Pinera, who leaves office in March, is expected to sign the bill into law, which would then come into effect within 90 days.
Civil unions have existed in Chile since 2015, which affords same-sex couples many but not all the benefits of married life.
But support for extending same-sex rights has been growing, particularly among young voters, with opinion polls showing three in five Chileans support same-sex marriage.
Chile is now poised to join more than 20 countries that allow same-sex marriage, including eight in the Americas - Canada, the United States, Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica and Uruguay, and certain states in Mexico.
Legalizing same-sex marriage gives Chilean couples additional welfare and state life insurance rights, among other benefits, and clarifies adoption rules.
Javier Silva and Jaime Nazar, both 38, were taken aback at how rapidly the landmark bill had passed, offering new protections for the couple as well as their two young children.
"We were optimistic the law would change but we didn't know how quickly or when exactly," said Silva.
"This means I can legally adopt my son, Clemente, and my partner can adopt Lola," said Silva by phone from Santiago.
"This is a tremendous gift for Chile. We can now be recognized as a family. It's very exciting.
"Now we are visible."
(Reporting by Anastasia Moloney; Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)