Colombia: Court refers gay marriage issue to Congress
The Colombian Constitutional Court struck aside a proposal that said "marriage applied only to unions between men and women", putting the subject up for Congress to debate upon. It is expected that a new ruling reflecting that such practice is discriminatory is expected to be approved. The ruling means Colombia will be the fourth Latin American nation to legally recognize homosexual marriages.
Consensual homosexual activity in Colombia was decriminalized in 1980. In 1991, the Colombian constitution introduced Article 13 which said "the State will provide conditions for the equality to be real and effective, and will adopt measures in favour of marginalised or discriminated groups." Several laws have been enacted since the 1990s which paved the way for greater equality between same-sex and heterosexual couples.
In February 2007, the Constitutional Court granted the same property and inheritance rights that heterosexual couples enjoy to same-sex couples. In October 2007, the court extended Social Security and health insurance benefits to registered gay couples. By April 2008, pension benefits were also granted to gay couples, bringing them at par with rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples. However, same-sex marriages were still unrecognized.
Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay have also passed regulation recognizing gay marriage. Mexico City and several Mexican states have also passed regulations allowing gay marriage and the country's high court has ruled the unions had to be recognized nationwide.
Colombia's Constitutional Court eased adoption restrictions for homosexual couples stating that "excluding gay couples as possible adoptive parents limits children's right to a family." Following the ruling, the court instructed adoption agencies not to discriminate against gay men and lesbians. Until this ruling, same-sex couples could only adopt children who were the offspring of one of the partners.
In March 2016, the first same-sex marriage conducted abroad was registered in Colombia. Same sex couples could not officially marry under Colombian law, but enjoyed the same constitutional rights that married heterosexual couples enjoyed, including health benefits and pension. A recent memo sent from the National Registry to all notaries and registrars included instructions to register gay couples who marry outside the country.
Magistrate Alberto Rojas, who voted against the proposed ruling, will now write up the majority decision making gay marriage legal. In a statement after the ruling he said, "All human beings ... have the fundamental right to be married with no discrimination."