Chile’s conservative president Sebastian Pinera [pic] recently proposed civil unions legislation that would give gay and lesbian partners many of the rights now offered to married couples in the South American nation. Pinera, fulfilling a campaign promise with the civil union bill, insists the initiative doesn’t change the concept of marriage in Chile. But said all couples “deserve respect, dignity and the support of state,” in a speech at the presidential palace that was followed by prolonged applause. If the bill is approved as written by both houses of congress, then couples who sign agreements to life as a couple before a notary or at the civil registry would be able to resolve legal problems with inheritances, social welfare issues and health care benefits. “There is a majority in congress that believes that couples of the same sex have the same right to be happy as the rest of the couples in our country,” said Pablo Simonetti, president of the Equality Foundation.