Chile-Flag-600x37570,000 people have taken to the streets in Chile’s capital to call for marriage equality as the nation’s Congress debates a civil unions bill.

The Santiago Pride Parade, an annual event in Santiago since 2000, marched through the capital’s streets in support of the bill despite many LGBTI Chileans pushing for full same-sex marriage.

The parade coincided with a bill introduced by Chilean President Sebastian Pinera that would give unmarried couples the right to undergo civil unions. The bill has stalled in Chile’s Congress despite widespread public support for legalisation. A bill to legalise civil unions was introduced in October 2009 but failed to pass.

Several rival Presidential candidates marched in the parade or sent letters expressing their support, including former Social Democrat President Michelle Bachelet, ahead of national elections in November. Bachelet has pledged to introduce full marriage equality, and is campaigning to be re-elected as Chile’s President with wide support despite constitutional limitations on serving another term.

Homosexuality was legalised in Chile in 1998 and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is illegal. However, unequal age of consent laws are still on the books.

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