July 25, 2013 at 12:32 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Same-sex couple legally recognized in Colombia

Gay News, Washington Blade, Colombia

Carlos Hernando Rivera Ramírez and Gonzalo Ruiz Giraldo in Bogotá, Colombia, on July 25, 2013. (Photo courtesy of Lina Cuéllar/Sentiido)

Two gay men who have been together for 20 years on Wednesday became the first legally recognized same-sex couple in Colombia

Carmen Lucía Rodríguez Díaz, a civil judge in Bogotá, the country’s capital, solemnized Carlos Hernando Rivera Ramírez and Gonzalo Ruiz Giraldo’s relationship. LGBT rights advocates applauded the couple as they left the court.

“We got married; we are very happy,” Rivera told reporters as El Tiempo, a Colombian newspaper, noted. “We have the same rights that a civilly married couple have.”

Colombia’s Constitutional Court in 2011 ruled gays and lesbians could seek legal recognition of their relationships within two years if lawmakers in the South American country failed to extend to them the same benefits heterosexuals receive through marriage.

The Colombian Senate in April overwhelmingly rejected a bill that would have extended marriage rights to same-sex couples.

The Constitutional Court’s June 20 deadline passed amid lingering confusion as to whether gay couples could actually tie the knot in the country because the 2011 ruling did not contain the word “marriage.”

Rodríguez, whom Rivera and Ruiz petitioned on June 20 to recognize their relationship, ruled on July 11 that the couple could legally marry. Former Constitutional Court President Carlos Gaviria Díaz told the Associated Press on Wednesday that Rivera and Ruiz’s union cannot be legally called a marriage, even though Rodríguez officiated a civil ceremony.

The Constitutional Court earlier on Wednesday rejected Colombian Attorney General Alejandro Ordóñez Maldonado’s petition to overturn Rodríguez’s July 11 ruling.

“They (Rivera and Ruiz) are married and have the same benefits and rights that any heterosexual couple united through marriage have,” Lina Cuéllar of Sentiido, an LGBT website she co-publishes in Bogotá, told the Washington Blade. “The issue is that the contract they signed is not called civil marriage, but today we celebrate that for the first time in Colombia a same-sex couple could say ‘we are married.’”

Marcela Sánchez Buitrago, executive director of Colombia Diversa, a nationwide LGBT advocacy group, agreed.

“Carlos and Gonzalo entered the court single and left married,” she told Radio Caracol earlier on Wednesday. “It is a step forward, it is historic in the country. [Rodríguez] is a judge that dared to give the effects and the procedures of marriage to a same-sex couple.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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