Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Separate But Equal For Colombian Same-Sex Couples?

A couple during this year's Gay Pride Parade. 
Gay couples can't get married, Colombia's Constitutional Court ruled today - but the legislature should invent a relationship to give them equal status.

The court ruled that the 1991 Constitution, which defines a family as a "free decision of a man and a woman to enter into matrimony," restricts marriage to a heterosexual union. However, it also said that clauses in the Constitution which guarantee equality for all and special protection for minorities require the legislature to provide an alternative legal relationship for same-sex couples. The court gave the legislature one year to develop such an alternative legal relationship.

If the legislature doesn't act, the court said, gay couples can register their relationships, but it still wouldn't be called 'marriage.' At present, same-sex couples who've cohabited for at least two years can register civil unions which carry most of the rights of marriage.

The high court might very well have ruled the other way, by basing its decision on the Constitution's guarantees of equality and the "free development of the personality." But, perhaps considering that Colombia's generally conservative, Catholic society is not ready for gay marriage, the court decided to stop half-way. Most likely, however, Colombians would have accepted gay matrimony, just as they have legal abortions, same sex civil unions, the right to personal drug use and other progressive court rulings.

When Colombia's Constitutional Convention wrote its surprisingly progressive document in 1991, only Denmark had recognized same sex 'domestic partnerships,' and most likely few Colombian politicians believed that gay marriage would ever become an issue in this highly-Catholic nation. I suspect that such a progressive document written today would take same-sex marriage for granted.

LGBT signs during the 2011 Gay Pride Parade.
By handing the issue over to the legislature, which has traditionally been conservative, the court has pretty much eliminated the chance for formal same-sex marriage, at least barring a continental shift in the legislature's political constitution. The only sizeable political party supporting same-sex marriage is the far-left Polo Democratico. Most likely, some members of the Green and the Liberal parties would also support the concept - but those parties belong to the conservative governing coalition.

Gay pride marchers carry signs demanding that the court provide equal marriage rights. 


Related posts: Gay Marriage in Colombia?

2011 Gay Pride Parade

Chapinero, Bogotá's Gay Neighborhood

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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