Non-marital civil union proposed in Peru.

Author:Jana, Elsa Chanduvi

A bill that would legalize non-marital civil unions for same-sex couples has split Peruvians into two camps: those viewing such unions a civil rights issue and others who say it is an attack on the family.

Congressman Carlos Bruce, leader of the Concertacion Parlamentaria bloc, presented a bill Sept. 12 to establish a legal institution of nonmarital civil unions between same-sex couples in recognition of gay and lesbian civil rights and end existing discrimination against that sector of the population.

"The bill would recognize natural and civil rights of more than a million people who expect to be treated as equal citizens of our country and not experience any discrimination," Bruce wrote in El Comercio.

In various media outlets, Bruce said his bill would give couples the right to hold community property with inheritance rights for first-degree relatives. The concept of civil union, however, would not be considered marriage or cover the adoption of children.

"It will provide the survivor in same-sex relationships legal protection for their property and guarantees for wealth created together. This corrects the current injustice, where a surviving partner is stripped of joint property by the heirs of the deceased," Bruce wrote in another column in El Comercio.

The proposed law also would provide protection for health insurance, pension benefits, and representation in emergency situations. It would guarantee same-sex civil-union partners visitation rights in hospitals and health centers as well as in making decisions regarding emergency surgery when a partner is unable to express his/her own decision.

Archbishop opposes bill

Lima's Archbishop Juan Luis Cardinal Cipriani rejected the proposed law. "I do not agree; I don't believe the people want it. I don't believe it represents the majority nor do I think that it excludes anyone," he said in his weekly radio program. Anyone who wants their civil rights within a relationship can make contracts, he said, but he opposes making "a caricature of marriage and destroying that institution."

Same-sex civil-union advocates maintain the cardinal is not considering the fact that, in practice, rights of succession take precedence over any civil contract.

In an apparent reference to Bruce, the cardinal said, "Whoever makes alternative choices--that's his own problem and he can do whatever he wants on his own. But I don't think we have elected officials to legitimize their own life choices. It doesn't seem right to me."...

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