Same-sex marriage in Colombia
|Legal status of same-sex unions|
* Not yet in effect, but automatic deadline set by judicial body for same-sex marriage to become legal
Same-sex marriage in Colombia has been legal since 28 April 2016, when the Constitutional Court of Colombia ruled by a 6-3 vote that banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional under the Colombian Constitution of 1991. The first same-sex marriage to be performed in the country following the ruling occurred on 24 May 2016. The country has also recognised same-sex de facto unions since 2007.
De facto unions
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. Later, 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 that was handed down on 13 April 2011 extended inheritance rights to same-sex couples.
A couple is regarded as de facto after living together for two years. A de facto union (Spanish: unión marital de hecho) 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.
On 26 July 2011, the Constitutional Court ruled (in case C-577/2011) by a 9-0 vote that it could not change the 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 20 June 2013). If such a law had not been passed by then, same-sex couples would be automatically able to register their relationship with the same solemnity as heterosexual couples do through marriage.
From February 2007 to August 2012, at least 51 same-sex de facto unions were performed in the coastal city of Cartagena. During that same time period, 74 and 140 such unions were performed in the cities of Soledad and Bogotá, respectively.
Civil union proposals
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 Álvaro Uribe was expected to sign the measure, which had been approved by the Colombian Senate in April. However, on 19 June, 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 Álvaro 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.
On 17 March 2015, Senator Armando Benedetti introduced a civil union bill. The bill failed as it was not debated in time. The bill was re-introduced by Senator Roy Barreras on 30 July 2015. On the same day, senators Benedetti and Barreras introduced a bill allowing same-sex couples to adopt children.
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 a 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 4 December 2012. On 24 April 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 Haiti".
Days before the vote, Superintendent Jorge Enrique Vélez announced that if the Congress failed to pass the same-sex marriage bill before the 20 June 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 20 June, 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 24 July 2013, a civil court judge in Bogotá declared a male same-sex couple legally married, after a ruling on 11 July 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. However, in October, the Bogotá High Court (Spanish: Tribunal Supremo de Bogotá) maintained the validity of that marriage. The issue of same-sex marriage once again went before the Constitutional Court after the country's Inspector General requested that the court invalidate all the marriages. A hearing was scheduled for 7 May 2015. It was postponed as some judges were not present and a new hearing open to the public happened on 30 July 2015. A verdict was to be reached before 31 August 2015.
Recognition of same-sex marriages performed overseas
In May 2015, Colombian Interior Minister Juan Fernando Cristo announced the Colombian Government's support for a move to recognise same-sex marriage. He made the statement the day after a multi-country same-sex couple began an unprecedented legal battle to have their 2013 marriage (registered in Spain) recognised in Colombia.
Colombian government agencies began recognising same-sex marriages lawfully performed in foreign jurisdictions in March 2016. Same-sex couples married abroad are now entitled to the same visa, healthcare benefits, inheritance and pension rights as heterosexual spouses once they take a stamped marriage certificate and identification papers to the nearest designated office.
Constitutional Court ruling
In March 2016, a draft of a ruling, considered to be a minority opinion of the Constitutional Court, was published by Judge Jorge Ignacio Pretelt. The draft argued that marriage applied only to one man and one woman and that it was up to Congress to legalize same-sex marriage. On 7 April 2016, the Court voted 6-3 against the proposal. Judge Alberto Rojas Río was assigned to prepare a new proposal, which was expected to be in line with the court majority's view (i.e. to declare that prohibiting same-sex couples from getting married is unconstitutional). The court announced its decision on 28 April 2016, ruling by a 6-3 margin that "marriage between people of the same sex does not violate the constitutional order." The ruling established that every "solemn contract" entered into by same-sex couples since 20 June 2013 (under the provisions of the court's previous ruling in the C-577/2011 case) is legally valid and to be recognised as a marriage, meaning that couples who have entered into such unions since 20 June 2013 need not remarry as a result of the court's April 2016 ruling. The ruling was officially published on 7 July 2016.
Presiding Judge Maria Victoria Calle told the court; "all people are free to choose independently to start a family in keeping with their sexual orientation... receiving equal treatment under the constitution and the law." The court's ruling informed state judges, notaries and clerks that they "must ensure that citizens' fundamental rights are observed and that they are all granted equal treatment."
On 12 July 2016, the Constitutional Court rejected a challenge to the ruling filed by a conservative group that opposes same-sex marriage. In January 2017, the Constitutional Court rejected an appeal filed by former Attorney General Alejandro Ordóñez to nullify the ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.
In Colombia, civil marriages are performed by notaries and judges. Up to April 2017, there was no unified statistical report concerning the first year of same-sex marriage in Colombia. Nonetheless, notaries had been reporting partial data, leaving marriages performed by judges excluded. Every marriage performed in Colombia has to be registered with the Registraduría Nacional de Colombia.
47 same-sex couples wed in Colombia from April to October 2016. 11 of these couples married in the department of Cundinamarca (including Bogotá), 10 in Valle del Cauca, five in both Antioquia and Risaralda, four in Quindío, two in Atlántico, Magdalena and Santander, and one each in Caquetá, Cesar, Huila, Meta, Norte de Santander and Tolima.
From April to December 2016, 117 same-sex marriages were celebrated in Colombia. The departments with the most such marriages were Antioquia with 37, Cundinamarca and Bogotá with 26, Valle del Cauca with 20 and Risaralda with 15. In Atlántico, 3 same-sex marriages were performed.
Notaries reported that from January 2017 to June 2017, 417 same-sex marriages had been performed in Colombia, with 56% being between male couples and 44% being between female couples. The departments with the most marriages were Cundinamarca (including Bogotá) with 132, Antioquia with 100, Valle del Cauca with 54 and Risaralda with 27.
A poll conducted between December 2009 and January 2010 in Colombia's capital, Bogotá, 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.
A Gallup national poll conducted in July 2016, showed that 40% of Colombians supported same-sex marriage, while 57% were opposed.
The 2017 AmericasBarometer showed that 34% of Colombians supported same-sex marriage.
A 2018 Gallup poll found that support for same-sex marriage had increased to 46%, with 52% of Colombians opposed.
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