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Gay Marriage Faces Uncertain Future In Colombia

6a00d8341c730253ef0191043145f3970c-piDespite the recent ruling by a judge in Bogota in support of marriage equality, doubts continue to linger about whether same-sex couples can indeed get married in Colombia. The confusion stems from a 2011 ruling from Colombia's Constitutional Court that declared the nation's Congress must act by June 20, 2013 to provide same-sex couples with the same rights before the law as heterosexual couples. After that date came and went without any substantive action by the Congress, it was up to court officials, mainly judges and notaries, to decide how they would implement the court's order. However, there has been some uncertainty as to whether the high court's ruling necessarily mandated that marriage equality become the law of the land. Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez, "who oversees how public officials do their jobs" in Colombia, recently petitioned the Constitutional Court for a clarification on its 2011 ruling, BuzzFeed reports:

"On Friday, the court rejected Ordoñez’s petition for it to clarify that it did not intend to open marriage to same-sex couples. And Constitutional Court President Jorge Iván Palacio sternly warned Ordoñez to “observe the determinations of this Court and monitor their strict and timely compliance.”

Palacio also called Ordoñez out for disparaging the court’s authority, “inviting” him to “maintain decorum” when addressing the court in the future.

Palacio’s statement was more concerned with ensuring the independence of the judiciary than with the question of same-sex marriage. Though it shut down Ordoñez, it also did not clarify that it intended for couples to have the right to marry. The high court seems to want the issue to percolate more among lower judges and notaries, though it is widely expected to have to revisit the issue."

Though doubts remain, marriage equality activists in Colombia view the Court's rejection of Ordoñez’s petition as a victory:

“A free path for #marriage equality,” tweeted human rights lawyer Viviana Bohórquez, which was retweeted by Marcela Sánchez, the executive director of Colombia’s leading LGBT rights organization, Colombia Diversa."


Colombian Judge Says Gay Couple Can Marry; Sets July 24 Ceremony

ColombiaMarriage equality has come to Colombia it appears, in a five-page ruling by Carmen Lucía Rodríguez Díaz, a civil judge in Bogotá, who was petitioned by a gay couple to recognize their relationship under the law. The couple, named Diego and Juan, are expected to marry in a civil ceremony on July 24.

In 2011, the Colombia Constitutional Court ruled that the nation's congress had to provide full legal recognition of same-sex couples by June 20, 2013.

However, the Congress rejected gay marriage legislation in April. Since, the June 20 deadline has passed without any legislation prescribing to how proceed, Colombian gay couples have been confused about how to go about securing legal recognition of their relationships.

(via Blabbeando)


Colombian Gay Couples Unsure About Legal Rights After Court's June 20 Deadline

In 2011, the Colombia Constitutional Court ruled that the nation's congress had to provide full legal recognition of same-sex couples by June 20, 2013.

However, the Congress rejected gay marriage legislation in April. And now that the June 20 deadline has passed without any legislation prescribing to how proceed, Colombian gay couples are confused about how to go about securing legal recognition of their relationships.

The Washington Blade reports:

ColumbiaIt remains unclear whether gays and lesbians can actually tie the knot in Colombia because the court’s ruling did not contain the word “marriage.” The judges instead said same-sex couples could go before a notary or a judge to “formalize and solemnize their contractual link.”

The Colombian newspaper El Tiempo on Thursday reported that Attorney General Eduardo Montealegre Lynett said notaries and judges are free to interpret the court’s decision because there is no law that specifically addresses the issue of relationship recognition. Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez Maldonado and other Colombian officials have said the 2011 ruling did not extend the possibility of marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Some notaries had said before the June 20 deadline that they would not marry same-sex couples, but rather allow them to enter into a “solemn contract” that is similar to an agreement into which two people enter when they buy a house together.

The article goes on to quote Colombian LGBT advocate Wilson Castañeda Castro as rejecting "solemn contracts" and demanding nothing less than marriage from judges and notaries.


Colombia's Gay Marriage Deadline Looms, Doubts Linger

Despite the recent failure of a bill in Colombia's senate that would have legalized same-sex marriage, gay couples in Colombia may soon be able to wed.

In 2011, Colombia's Constitutional Court ruled that the nation's Congress must pass "comprehensive, systematic, and orderly legislation" by June 20, 2013 to correct the imbalance between rights afforded to heterosexual and homosexual couples. However, with the deadline only days away and no new legislation in place, it is uncertain how court officials will interpret the high court's ruling, The Washington Blade reports:

6a00d8341c730253ef017d431b785d970c-800wi"Marcela Sánchez Buitrago, executive director of Colombia Diversa, an LGBT advocacy group, told the Washington Blade on Monday that some notaries have already said they will not marry same-sex couples after the court’s deadline passes. They would instead allow them to enter into a 'solemn contract' that is similar to an agreement between two people who buy a house together.

'This in the view of Colombia Diversa does not comply with the Constitutional Court’s order,' Sánchez said.

Colombia Diversa and other LGBT advocacy groups are advising couples who encounter a notary or a judge who refuses to allow them to register their relationships–or enter into a civil marriage as Sánchez and other activists have described it–to petition a court to reverse the decision. Lina Cuéllar, director of Sentiido, an LGBT website she co-publishes in Bogotá, the country’s capital, told the Blade she expects some notaries and judges will accommodate gays and lesbians in the same way they treat heterosexual couples."

The Blade notes that Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos' administration has remained silent on this issue, casting further doubt as to what the government's official response to the Constitutional Court's order will be come June 20. Should notaries and judges allow same-sex couples to marry, Colombia would join Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay in being the only South American countries to have legalized same-sex marriage.


Colombian Senate Rejects Marriage Equality Bill 51-17

The Colombian Senate voted down a marriage equality bill yesterday, Reuters reports:

ColombiaThe bill was rejected by 51 out of 102 lawmakers in the Senate - with 17 in favor. The negative vote was widely expected, given that lawmakers from the ruling coalition had made an alliance to oppose the initiative.

Several hundred people rallied in Bogota's main colonial square as lawmakers debated the proposal to allow people of the same sex to marry. Colombians for and against the bill faced off in the Plaza Bolivar, with some critics of same-sex marriage waving banners that read: "1 man + 1 woman = marriage."

Colombia's Supreme Court issued a ruling in 2011 that requires the Congress to act on marriage equality by June 20, 2013, or else gay couples can apply for civil unions from notaries.


Colombia's Senate Considering Marriage Equality Bill Today

Colombia's Senate is considering a marriage equality bill today. They were set to vote on the bill last week but it was postponed until today after hours of debate.

ColombiaAndrés Duque has a good post about the current situation there.

A Towleroad reader in Colombia writes me that chances are very slim for the bill today. It must pass with at least 51 votes and neither side has enough.  His prediction is that the bill will die because of a deficit of votes on either side and the law will be in a sort of limbo because the Supreme Court has ruled that Congress must legislate on the issue before June. Which may mean another court battle...

Last week the Colombia Law and Business post wrote:

Why Is This Debate Happening Now?

The Colombian Consitutional Court issued a ruling in 2001 (Sentencia C577/11) that requires the Congress to act by June 20, 2013, or else same-sex couples can present themselves to legal notaries to contract for their legal rights. The Court ruled that same-sex couples have equal legal rights to found a family, but there is a “deficit of legal protection” for such couples under current law, and ordered the Congress to eliminate that deficit by June 20, 2013. The Court previously ruled that the right given to heterosexual couples to a legally recognized non-marital union must be accorded to same-sex couples.

Some people claim that the Colombian Constitution and Civil Code refer to marriage as between a man and a woman, but this doesn’t make the point they think. Both were adopted when there was no consideration of same-sex marriage, and therefore it cannot be said that same-sex marriage was intended to be prohibited. Furthermore, neither provision says “only” a man and a woman can contract marriage.

More importantly, Art. 13 of the Constitution guarantees equality before the law. (This is also a human right guaranteed by the American Convention on Human Rights, which is binding on Colombia. See more about this below.) To allow marriage equality is to reconcile the marriage and equality clauses; to prohibit same-sex marriage is to ignore the equality clause altogether and to invent an intention for the family clause that never existed.

Those wishing to follow the news on Twitter can follow the hashtag #MatrimonioIgualitarioYA.

Also, check out this powerful video from last week's debate.

Andrés Duque, who translated the clip, writes, "It's a psychologist named Martha Lucía Cuéllar who spoke in favor or marriage equality when debate started last Thursday. She speaks movingly about her gay son and the death of his partner and puts every single Senator on notice in case they vote against the marriage equality bill."

Turn on annotations for translation.


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