Colombia’s constitutional court issued its 6-3 ruling nearly nine months after it held a hearing on whether to extend nuptials to gays and lesbians.
Colombia Diversa, a Colombian LGBT advocacy group, in a press release said the ruling “established that marriage is the only legal institution that addresses the lack of protection for same-sex couples and there is no basis to deny it.” The landmark decision also says that judges and notaries must perform civil marriages for same-sex couples who request them.
“Same-sex couples can access the institution of civil marriage with the same rights, benefits and the same responsibilities that this institution affords to heterosexual couples thanks to the Constitutional Court of Colombia,” said Colombia Diversa.
Angélica Lozano, a lesbian who was elected to the Colombian Congress in 2014, also celebrated Thursday’s ruling.
“Equality is unstoppable,” she said in a tweet she posted to her Twitter page.
— Angélica Lozano (@AngelicaLozanoC) April 7, 2016
The New York City Bar Association and the Impact Litigation Project at American University Washington College of Law in D.C. filed briefs in support of marriage rights for same-sex couples. Evan Wolfson, founder of Freedom to Marry, also submitted testimony ahead of the July 30 hearing on the issue.
“I’m gratified that the court carefully studied the issue,” Hunter T. Carter of the New York City Bar Association told the Washington Blade on Thursday during a telephone interview shortly after he learned about the ruling.
The court in 2011 ruled that same-sex couples could register their relationships within two years if Colombian lawmakers did not pass a bill that would extend to the same benefits heterosexuals receive through marriage.
Legislators in the South American country subsequently defeated a same-sex marriage bill.
A handful of gay and lesbian couples in Bogotá and other Colombian cities have exchanged vows since the court’s deadline passed in 2013. Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez Maldonado has challenged the rulings that allowed them to marry.
The court last November issued a landmark ruling that extended adoption rights to same-sex couples.
“The court was patient and gave the Congress a chance to legislate,” Carter told the Blade. “The failure to legislature led to this legislation.”
Colombia ruling to have ‘significant impact’ in Latin America
Same-sex couples can legally marry in Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Mexico City and a handful of other Mexican states.
Chile’s civil unions law took effect last October, but LGBT rights advocates in the South American country continue to lobby lawmakers to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples. Members of a Peruvian congressional committee in 2015 tabled a bill that would have allowed gays and lesbians to enter into civil unions.
Carter told the Blade that Thursday’s ruling will have “a significant impact” throughout Latin America.
“It is clear that this decision will have a major effect,” he said.