April 24, 2013 at 5:12 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Colombian Senate rejects same-sex marriage bill
Colombia, Bogota, gay news, Washington Blade

El Capitolio Nacional in Bogotá, Colombia (Photo by Rikimedia via Wikimedia Commons)

The Colombian Senate on Wednesday rejected a bill that would have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples couples in the South American country.

Senators opposed the proposal by an 51-17 vote margin a day after they debated it.

“Marriage is a fundamental right,” Sen. Luís Carlos Avellaneda said. “The principal of equality extends the same protection to all Colombians without discrimination.”

Congresswoman Alba Luz Pinilla Pedraza said the bill is about civil — and not religious — marriage. Sen Luís Fernando Velasco stressed “we are all equal” during his testimony as he spoke in support of LGBT Colombians.

“They don’t want our sympathy, what they want is that we recognize human dignity,” he said.

Colombian lawmakers had been expected to vote on the same-sex marriage bill last week, but it was delayed.

Sen. Roberto Gerleín Echevarría mocked the testimony of Martha Lucía Cuéllar de San Juan, a Bogotá psychologist who referenced her gay son whose partner of 11 years died as she spoke in support of the proposal last Thursday, while speaking against the bill.

Sen. Alexandra Moreno Piraqüive cited Denmark, Sweden and other countries that allow same-sex marriage as she spoke about how she feels nuptials for gays and lesbians harms Colombian children.

“We should not compare ourselves to another country,” she said.

Colombian senators rejected the same-sex marriage bill a day after the French National Assembly gave final approval to a measure that would extend adoption and marriage rights to gays and lesbians.

Argentina, Mexico City and 10 Brazilian states that include São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are among the Latin American jurisdictions in which same-sex couples can legally marry. Uruguayan lawmakers earlier this month approved a bill that will allow nuptials for gays and lesbians.

The Colombian Senate in 2007 defeated a bill that would have allowed same-sex couples to enter into civil unions.

The country’s Constitutional Court in three separate rulings it issued later that year and in 2008 extended property and inheritance rights, social security and pension benefits to same-sex couples. The tribunal in 2009 ruled gay and lesbian couples who live together must receive the same rights that Colombian law affords unmarried heterosexual couples.

The Constitutional Court in 2011 issued a ruling that said the country’s Congress must pass legislation within two years that extends the same benefits heterosexuals receive through marriage to same-sex couples. Gays and lesbians can legally register their unions if lawmakers fail to act on this judicial mandate by June 20.

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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