Santos defeated former Finance Minister Óscar Iván Zuluaga by a 51-45 percent margin with slightly more than 4 percent of the 15,341,383 total ballots cast left blank.
Santos, who highlighted during his campaign the ongoing peace process between his government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia known by the Spanish acronym FARC that has staged a decades long guerrilla war, specifically acknowledged his LGBT supporters after declaring victory against Zuluaga as Andrés Duque of Blabbeando reported. Colombia Diversa, a Colombian LGBT advocacy group, said rainbow flags were inside the incumbent’s campaign headquarters.
Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed Santos’ victory over Zuluaga, a close ally of former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe who opposes peace talks with the FARC.
“We congratulate President Santos on his victory, as well as the Colombian people and electoral officials on a peaceful and orderly election,” said Kerry in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to work with President Santos and his administration to advance our bilateral relationship and to continuing to support the Colombian government and people as they pursue a negotiated end to the conflict there.”
Santos last month publicly backed marriage rights for same-sex couples during a Google hangout the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo hosted ahead of the first round of the South American country’s presidential election that took place on May 25.
“Marriage between homosexuals to me is perfectly acceptable and what’s more I am defending unions that exist between two people of the same sex with the rights and all of the same privileges that this union should receive,” he said. “If these unions are called marriage or not is secondary to me. For me it is important that they have their rights.”
Zuluaga indicated his opposition to the issue in a candidate questionnaire that Colombia Diversa published on May 15.
“I respect the sexual inclination of people and their privacy, but I do not agree with marriage between partners of the same sex, nor adoption,” he said. “I agree that you should have a legal framework that respects inheritance rights, civil rights and social security for same-sex partners.”
The Colombian Constitutional Court in 2011 ruled that same-sex couples could legally register their relationships in two years if lawmakers did not pass a bill that would extend to them the same benefits heterosexuals receive through marriage.
The Colombian Senate in April 2013 overwhelmingly struck down a same-sex marriage bill.
Several gay and lesbian couples in Bogotá, the Colombian capital, and other cities have exchanged vows since the Constitutional Court’s deadline passed last June. Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez Maldonado has challenged the rulings that allowed them to marry.
The Impact Litigation Project at American University Washington College of Law and the New York City Bar Association in April filed briefs with the Constitutional Court in a case brought by two gay couples challenging Ordóñez’s efforts to nullify their marriages.
Colombian Vice President Angelino Garzón, who will leave office in August, earlier this month discussed the progress his country has made towards LGBT rights during a meeting in New York with Charles Radcliffe, senior human rights adviser for the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner. These include the passage of a gay-inclusive anti-discrimination law in 2011 and the 2012 appointment of a transgender woman, Tatiana Piñeros, to run Bogotá’s social welfare agency.
Colombia Diversa and other Colombian LGBT advocacy groups and activists have been critical of Santos’ administration for what they maintain is its silence during the same-sex marriage debate. They nevertheless welcomed his re-election.