Recognition of same-sex unions in Colombia
|Legal status of
*Not yet in effect
Colombia has no laws providing for same-sex marriage. However, as a result of subsequent rulings by the country's Constitutional Court that started on February 2007, same-sex couples can apply for all the rights that heterosexual couples have in de facto unions (uniones de hecho). According to the 1991 Constitution, "de facto unions" are legally equal to marriages.
A couple will be regarded as a de facto union after living together for two years. A union can be either registered or unregistered; both have the same status, but the registered union may provide greater convenience when accessing rights. A union can be registered through a public deed before a notary or a judge.
Same-sex couples have been getting married due to a Constitutional Court ruling that in 2011 established the family status of same-sex couples, and remarked the need for a "solemn contract" that would grant the same advantages to those couples as to opposite sex couples. The National Congress did not correct the discrepancy. Since 2013, judges have to use their discretion on the matter, with many of them performing same sex marriages, despite opposition from conservative groups and the Inspector General.
On 7 February 2007 the Constitutional Court of Colombia extended several common-law marriage property and pension rights to same-sex couples. A subsequent court decision, handed down in October 2007, extended social security and health insurance rights to same-sex couples. Next, on 28 January 2009, the Constitutional Court modified 20 laws to give 42 more rights to cohabitating same-sex couples that were previously only granted to heterosexual couples (including nationality, residence permits, testimony when in jury, family-properties laws, etc.). A final ruling took place on 13 April 2011 that extended inheritance rights to same-sex couples.
On 26 July 2011 the Constitutional Court ruled by a 9-0 vote that it couldn't change the current definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, but also that same-sex couples have the right to form a family and ordered the Colombian Congress to pass legislation addressing this issue (whether by legalizing same-sex marriage or another marriage-like union) within a two years deadline (by June 20, 2013). If such a law is not passed until then, same-sex couples will be automatically able to register their relationship with the same solemnity as heterosexual couples do through marriage.
On 15 June 2007, the lower house of the Congress of Colombia approved a historic same-sex couples bill by a vote of 62-43, and President Uribe was expected to sign the measure, which had been approved by the Colombian Senate in April. However, on June 19, a group of conservative senators broke party discipline in what is usually a routine vote on the final form of a bill and defeated the measure by 34-29 in the 102-member Senate. About 80 LGBT-rights advocates held a demonstration outside Congress the following day, protesting the bill's defeat. Supporters vowed to revive the legislation.
The bill, which had been endorsed by conservative President Alvaro Uribe, would have made Colombia the first nation in Latin America to grant same-sex couples in long-term relationships the same rights to health insurance, inheritance and social security as heterosexual couples.
In 2011, after the Constitutional Court ruling, four bills were announced in Congress to correct the disadvantage of same-sex couples, two bills used the word "marriage", two of them created civil unions.
In October 2012 Senator Armando Benedetti introduced the bill legalizing same-sex marriage. The bill initially only allowed for civil unions, but the text was changed by Benedetti. President Juan Manuel Santos didn't take a position on the bill. The Senate's First Committee approved the bill on December 4, 2012. On April 24, 2013, the bill was rejected by the Senate in a 17-51 vote, after being postponed on two different occasions. The negative outcome was expected, as the two biggest parties made a commitment to kill the bill. Senator Benedetti responded to the vote calling the Colombian Congress "worthless", and stating that Senators who voted against the project wanted the country's Legislature to be like the ones of "Congo, Uganda, Bolivia and Haití".
Days before the vote, Superintendent Jorge Enrique Vélez announced that if the Congress failed to pass the same-sex marriage bill before the June 20 deadline, the Minister of Justice would prepare guidelines for notaries and judges to conduct "solemn contracts" for same-sex couples. On 18 April 2013, the country's Notaries Association presented their own proposal, which sought to set guidelines for the celebration of same-sex couples' "marital unions". On June 20, notaries across the country started performing these unions; however LGBT activists advised people not to engage in those contracts because, they said, the framework for a "marital contract" did not exist in the country's laws. In the following days, several couples made petitions to judges to have their relationships recognized through marriage.
On July 24, 2013, a civil court judge in Bogotá declared a male same-sex couple legally married, after a ruling on July 11, 2013 accepting the petition. This was the first same-sex couple married in Colombia.
In September 2013, two civil court judges married two same-sex couples. The first marriage was challenged by a conservative group, and it was initially annulled. Nevertheless, in October a High Court (Tribunal Supremo de Bogotá) maintained the validity of that marriage.
A poll conducted between December 2009 and January 2010 in Colombia's capital, Bogota, showed that 63% of the city's population was in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage, while 36% was against it. The poll showed that women and people with a higher education level were more likely to support same-sex marriage.
A nationwide poll taken in November 2012, however, found that 28% of Colombians supported same-sex marriage, while 66% opposed it and 6% did not respond.
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