SANTIAGO, Chile, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- The Senate in Chile has given overwhelming approval to a bill that would allow homosexual couples to become legal partners in civil unions.
The Life Partner Agreement was adopted late Tuesday in a 28-6 vote with two senators abstaining, the Santiago Times reported. Opponents of the bill in the gallery held up banners with religious texts during the vote, while supporters cheered when it passed.
The bill now goes to a constitutional assembly before being brought back to Congress Jan. 20.
The measure was introduced in 2011 by President Sebastien Pinera of the center-right National Renewal Party. Michelle Bachelet, the Socialist former president who resumes office on March 11, promised during last year's campaign to support same-sex marriage.
The group Homosexual Integration and Liberation called Senate passage of civil partnerships "one more step in the struggle for civil unions, which we began a decade ago," adding, "What was a dream is now becoming real."
A spokesman, Oscar Rementeria, told the Times Bachelet was unable to fulfill her promises on gay rights during her first term as president -- and may not be able to do so this time.
Gay activists got a boost last year when Alexis Hector Castillo, the son of a lesbian couple, got the highest possible score in the math section of the university placement test. Castillo has become a campaigner for marriage equality, telling the newspaper El Rancaguino last week he grew up in a "totally normal family which deserves respect."