Voters in Chile have rejected a new constitution that would have enshrined LGBTQ+ rights and expanded social rights on an unprecedented scale.
In a nationwide plebiscite held on September 4, 62 percent of Chileans who turned out to the polls voted against the proposed constitution. The slated revisions to Chile’s 1980 constitution would have explicitly protected LGBTQ+ equality and granted more rights for citizens than any national charter before it. Among the reforms proposed in the document was the right of citizens to choose their own identity “in all its dimensions and manifestations,” such as “sexual characteristics, gender identities and expressions.”
Studies have shown that the public recognition of gender-diverse individuals can greatly reduce stigma and that access to legal gender affirmation results in significantly lower levels of depression and anxiety.
Gaspar Domínguez, vice president of the constitutional convention, said the new constitution would have ensured political representation for the LGBTQ+ community and recognized the rights of same-sex families. The latter would have been another significant step forward for LGBTQ+ Chileans after lawmakers voted to legalize same-sex marriage last December.
“The most relevant [reform] is that it establishes non-discrimination,” he told the Los Angeles Blade. “The constitution will prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”
The proposed changes to Chile’s constitution would not have just impacted the LGBTQ+ community. If approved by voters, it have also enshrined in law rights to abortion, universal healthcare and housing, given greated autonomy to Indigenous groups, strengthened labour unions and mandated environmental protections in one of South America’s most historically conservative nations.
Political leaders in Chile said that they would keep pushing toward equality despite the electoral setback.
“Chileans’ decision demands our institutions and political leaders to work harder, with more dialogue, respect and care, until we reach a proposal that reflects us all,” said President Gabriel Boric in an address to the nation following the vote. “As president of the republic, I take this message with great humility.”
Progressives, meanwhile, are already rallying toward a new proposal. Emilia Schneider, a representative of the left-wing Commons Party in Parliament, said the rejection was a “hard result,” but she added that “the cycle of changes is not closed.”
“Starting tomorrow, we must work for a new, democratic, equal process,” she wrote in a September 4 tweet.
The push for a new constitution began after weeks-long protests over economic inequalities in 2019. Critics of the proposal reportedly spread misinformation to undermine support for the reforms, falsely claiming that progressives wanted to change Chile’s national flag and even the country’s name.
Chile isn’t the only country potentially experiencing setbacks in the push for full LGBTQ+ equality. Liz Truss, the U.K.’s newly elected prime minister, is seeking legal help to “pause or prevent” proposed trans rights reforms being pushed by the Scottish government, as VICE reported Wednesday.
Scotland’s proposed Gender Gender Recognition Reform Bill aims to “improve the process for people applying for legal gender recognition,” according to its government website. As it stands currently, the U.K. has some of the most restrictive gender recognition processes in Europe, but parliamentary leaders in Scotland want to lower the age requirement to 16 and remove costly barriers like the medical requirement.
Sources said blocking Scotland’s bill is “a priority” for Truss, who has a long history of obstructing reforms to gender legislation in the U.K. In her former role as equalities minister, she gutted proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act in 2020 that would have made legal gender corrections more accessible.
“I would not be surprised if Truss successfully stops it,” a source told VICE.
Truss did not deny the allegations. The Government Equalities Office, which leads the U.K. government’s work relating to LGBTQ+ people, confirmed that the new PM is currently “seeking legal advice” regarding the bill.
Scottish officials said they won’t be deterred by the prime minister’s interference, however. Parliamentarian John Nicolson, deputy chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global LGBT+ Rights, affirmed that “the Scottish government will pass legislation to reform the Gender Recognition Act,” which he says is well-supported across parties.
“Liz Truss should focus on cleaning up the mess that her chaotic government has created at Westminster, rather than trying to interfere with progressive Scottish government business over which she has no remit,” he told VICE.