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Colombia high court sends same-sex marriage question to Congress

The Constitutional Court of Colombia [official website, in Spanish] ruled [press release, in Spanish] unanimously on Tuesday that same-sex couples are "families" under the law and their relationships cannot be invalidated nor can same-sex marriage be made illegal, but gave the Colombian Congress two years to legislate same-sex marriage rather than declaring it outright constitutional. Without congressional action, same-sex couples will be able to legally wed through a notary public and currently are considered to be in "de facto" unions. The original suit questions Article 113 of the Civil Code, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Declaring that regulating marriage is the legislature's responsibility, the court did make a statement in favor of same-sex marriage, arguing that church animosity toward same-sex couples is an unfair bias: "It is based on prejudice against the homosexual choice. There is no evidence that children raised by same-sex couples suffer traumas or problems. It is clear that same-sex couples who love each other succeed in building relationships. So there is no reason to deprive them the right to marry." The president of the Senate, Juan Manuel Corzo praised the decision [El Espectador report, in Spanish] as enshrining the will of the people. Corzo suggested the LGBT community draft a same-sex marriage bill and see if it passes, although he will vote against it. LGBT rights group Colombia Diversa [advocacy website] criticized the ruling [press release, in Spanish], saying the court ignored the "bias in the way the Congress of the Republic of Colombia has handled issues related to same-sex couples and failure of duty of protection of minorities in a deficit democracy like ours."

In 2008, the court held that same-sex couples should be given the same pension and health benefits [JURIST report] as those held by opposite-sex couples. In its decision [court materials, in Spanish], the court said that to exclude same-sex couples from receiving such benefits would undermine their fundamental right to human dignity and equal protection of the laws. The previous year, the Colombian Senate voted against landmark legislation [JURIST report] that would have given same-sex couples who have cohabited for over a period of two years similar rights as persons in heterosexual common law marriages. Earlier, the court ruled [JURIST report] that same-sex couples must be accorded the same property rights as other unmarried couples.

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