Landmark Ruling Ends Legal Uncertainty, Strengthens LGBT Rights
(New York) – The Colombian Constitutional Court ended years of uncertainty for same-sex couples and bolstered the rights of LGBT people when it upheld the validity of same-sex marriage on April 28, 2016, Human Rights Watch said today.
The court had long wanted Colombia’s Congress to settle the matter. In a June 2011 decision, it asked Congress to legalize same-sex unions and said that if it failed to do so within two years, same-sex couples would have the right to ask judges and notaries to “formalize and solemnize” their “contractual relationships.” Congress did not pass the necessary legislation, which led to more than two and a half years of legal uncertainty among judges and notaries. Some have performed marriages for same-sex couples while others have not, creating an atmosphere of arbitrary discrimination that the petitioners in the current case – led by the local group Colombia Diversa – sought to end.
“The Colombian Congress has repeatedly failed to pass legislation that would comply with the Constitutional Court’s ruling and end arbitrary discrimination in the country’s marriage law,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “The court’s decision to grant all Colombians, regardless of their sexual orientation, the right to marry the people they love is a landmark move for human rights in the country.”
In testimony before the court, Vivanco said, “The right to marry and to form a family are fundamental rights that States must protect. Limiting marriage to heterosexual couples violates the right to nondiscrimination and equality.”
“We hope that other courts and lawmakers in the region will follow the lead of the Colombian Constitutional Court in upholding this basic right,” Vivanco said.