Advance For Colombian Gays

Gay rights continue to advance across South America, with Colombia’s government the latest to extend benefits to same-sex partners. However, marriage equality there continues to be thwarted by the Catholic Church.

Colombia’s Constitutional Court has ruled that the government must extend pension benefits to same-sex partners. The court ruled that same-sex partners must be given the same pension and health benefits as opposite-sex married partners receive. The ruling said that to exclude same-sex partners would violate the principle of non-discrimination and human dignity as the expression of personal autonomy, protected by international law.

“Same-sex partners in Colombia now have a broader legal framework to guarantee their equality,” said José Miguel Vivanco, director of the Americas Division at Human Rights Watch. “Colombia’s court set an example for the region; other countries should follow suit.”

Last year the Constitutional Court ruled that gay and lesbian couples must have the same property rights as opposite-sex couples. In that case the court carefully noted the decision did not automatically permit civil unions. That issue it said was up to the Congress.

Colombia’s Congress then passed legislation giving same-sex couples most of the same rights as opposite-sex married couples but the bill died in a procedural move by conservative senators. The reversal came after the powerful Catholic Church in Colombia warned lawmakers they were violating Vatican policy and could be denied the sacraments. President Alvaro Uribe had said he would sign the bill into law.