Colombian Supreme Court diverts marriage decision to legislature

Timothy Kincaid

July 27th, 2011


The issue of marriage for same-sex couples is a legislative matter that must be taken up in Colombia’s Congress, the nation’s Constitutional Court ruled in a move that activists saw as a victory, though the outcome remains to be seen.

The court did rule on Tuesday that gay couples in de facto unions constitute a family. Gay-rights supporters celebrated the ruling in the streets.

The court gave the Congress two years to legislate the status of same-sex marriages. If the deadline passes with no legislation, then same-sex couples will be able to formalize their unions before a notary public, the court said.

I’m not certain exactly what was decided Tuesday as the court had granted recognition of common-law marriages in 2009.


July 27th, 2011

It recognized the rights of the marriages, but shrugged to the legislature the responsibility of respecting those rights.

Now they’ve basically moved to threaten that since the inequalities have not been solved, the legislature now has an ultimatum to simply integrate gays and lesbians into the definition of a matrimony.

In Latin America the language is a little bit more muddied than in the U.S. In some regions civil unions (for everyone) is what’s recognized, but marriage is the church/social ceremony. In other regions there are different recognitions for relationships both heterosexual and homosexual, with varying degrees of responsibilities.

Common law marriages were not the same as the standard marriages most couples get into. The arrangements, benefits, criteria, and responsibilities are different.

The standard marriage is more widely recognized and standardized around the country as a whole, and as such this ruling has the significance of now removing regional autonomy given local failure to treat people equally.

This ruling inducts gay people into the definition of a Colombian family. Not an alternative arrangement deserving equal dignity, but actually rejecting any idea that the superficial differences constitute any acceptable point of contention in terms of social interaction.


July 29th, 2011

Yes, in line with Lucrece, I actually think that the Colombian Constitutional Court’s decision was a fairly savvy one. In fact they decreed that within two years Colombian gay and lesbian couples who wish to be married will in fact be able to be married.

Meanwhile they put the ball into the court of the largely conservative legislature to work out for themselves if they want to spend time and energy coming up with an alternative name for something that must in fact treat those couples in exactly the same way as married couples (the only outstanding matter of possible difference is that of adoption by a couple, and the court will pronounce on that soon).

Please notice that this means that they leave the legislature no option but to come up with something that is either marriage, or very strictly analogous to marriage. This means that ANY form of legislation in the area, will push conservative Catholic legislators into a positive involvement with positions which the official line from the Vatican prohibits. Even a refusal of any legislation at all will simply mean tacit consent to full civil marriage.

Savvy move by the court: they’ve set fixed parameters, and obliged the politicians to get involved, whether actively or passively, so that no one can claim that the issue was resolved by judicial fiat. Thus they have forced conservative politicians and their constituencies to be complicit in the outcome of public debate concerning the issue, which will surely help socialize the reality of the inevitable resulting marriages.

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