Lesbian Couple Gets Married via Google Hangouts

PHOTO: Claudia Calderon, and Claudia Amigo, pose for a picture with their daughter Gabriela. The couple got married on Sunday, in a ceremony officiated by a Belgian mayor, via Google Hangouts.

Screenshot/Iguales.com.cl

Last Sunday in Chile, a country where same-sex marriage is illegal, two women were wed by a Belgian mayor via Google Hangouts.

Claudia Amigo and Claudia Calderón, a long-time couple, tied the knot in Santiago in a ceremony officiated through a live webcam by Eric Lomba, the mayor of Marchin, Belgium, one of the world's 14 nations that accepts same-sex marriage.

The wedding, organized by the French NGO Tous Unis Pour L'Égalité, is largely symbolic, and it does not change the couple's legal status in Chile. Nevertheless, it represented a milestone for Amigo and Calderón.

"We ratified our union through a beautiful gesture that honors unconditional love and the commitment that we feel towards each other every day," the couple said after the web ceremony.

"We are the ones that must enact change. Better times will come when every citizen in Chile has a right to marry the person they love."

The wedding also served as an act of protest against the Chilean government's unwillingness to push forward a same-sex marriage bill that is now stranded in Congress, according to Rolando Jiménez, president of Chile's Movimiento de Liberación Homosexual (Movihl).

For nearly a year now, Chile's Congress has been debating a same-sex bill introduced by President Sebastián Piñera's government. The bill's passage shouldn't have been difficult, according to Jiménez, but Piñera, who supported this kind of legislation during his presidential campaign, has not done much to speed the legislative process.

Jimenez says that Piñera's lack of action can be attributed in part to the upcoming presidential election this November. The president and other politicians who could play a part in moving the bill forward may be wary of alienating conservative voters, which make up more than half of the country's electorate, according to polls.

Jimenez, argues that the recent marriage via Google Hangouts sends a message to Chile's wary politicians. "The event has ethical, and cultural significance," Jiménez said. "It shows society the necessity to recognize the various ways in which we can form a family."

Amigo and Calderón have raised a 14-year-old daughter named Gabriela. Given current Chilean laws and the fact that Gabriela is Amigo's biological daughter, Calderón does not have legal guardianship over her daughter.

"The hardest part is not to be legally recognized as her other mother," Calderón said a few weeks ago while discussing how she and Amigo have raised Gabriela.

"Not to be able to give her, for example, something as basic as health insurance or an inheritance. Not being able to say or do anything if something happens to my partner. The most likely thing that would happen is that they would take Gabriela away from me and I wouldn't be able to do anything about it."

Piñera's term ends this year and his likely successor, former president Michelle Bachelet, has already expressed her support for a same-sex marriage bill.

Nevertheless, groups like Movihl are weary of Bachelet, who had already promised something similar the last time she was president.

"Bachelet has not been consistent on her position," Jiménez said. "She said last week that we should discuss the subject. Rights shouldn't be discussed; they should be respected."

While the political struggle continues in Chile and in other countries, other same-sex couples like Amigo and Calderón are considering the symbolic option offered by a ceremony via Google+ Hangouts. Tous Unis Pour L'Égalité has already organized six weddings and, as their video statement shows, they are ready to keep on going.

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