Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Colombian Congress Rejects Gay Marriage Bill

Colombian legislators today rejected a proposal that would have permitted same sex couples to marry.

In the 51-17 vote, legislators opted against the bill that was first introduced former Senate president Armando Benedetti last November.

 “The day that we are able to become a modern and progressive legislature is the day when we can start ending inequality and poverty in Colombia,” said Benedetti.

Voting on the bill had been delayed twice over the past week as tempers flared over the issue of gay rights.  On Tuesday senator Roberto Gerlein took to the floor to denounce what he deemed “the violence of the gay lobby” and allege, “Sex between homosexuals is scatological and purely recreational.”  (Last year he caused quite a stir when he declared that gay people have a smaller brain than heterosexuals and “homosexuality is a yoke placed by the bad luck of nature.”

In July 2011 the Colombian Constitutional Court granted a two-year window for Congress to pass legislation legalizing gay marriage. According to the court, if the deadline passes with no legislation, then same-sex couples will be able to formalize their unions before a notary public.  Yet it remains to be seen if notaries will be permitted to join same-sex couples after Attorney General Alejandro Ordóñez recently claimed that civil unions between members of the same gender is illegal and unconstitutional.

While Gerlein and his cohorts view gay marriage as something to be repudiated and abhorred, for some gay couples in Colombia the issue is one of acceptance and having the same opportunities as straight pairs.  As was written in an article on a gay couple in Colombian daily El Pais:

They feel that their union would be almost perfect if, much like heterosexual couples, they could hold each others hand publicly or cosign the deed to their house or legally have one of them as a social security beneficiary or if one of the pair should die the other can receive a pension for all of the years they have been together…in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer.”
The debate over gay marriage has not been limited to the legislative chambers as yesterday competing but peaceful rallies were held at the Plaza de Bolivar in Bogota. On one side of the plaza were some 2000 opponents of same-sex marriage including Christian and Catholic groups.  Opposite them approximately 500 members of the LGBT community gathered with a large sign reading “Equality for Everyone.”

The actions in Colombia occur roughly two weeks after Uruguay became the second Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage.  In 2010 Argentina became the first country in the region to approve gay marriage though the practice is also permitted in parts of Mexico and Brazil.

Video Source– YouTube via user apvideonews

Online Sources – El Colombiano; El Pais; El Tiempo;; El Espectador; The Latin Americanist; CNN

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