Colombia’s highest court paved the way for same-sex couples to get married in a landmark decision on Thursday.
Gay couples in Colombia were already allowed to form civil unions, with many benefits of marriage including inheritance, pensions and health benefits.
However, the symbolic right to wed was something that so far had been denied.
This magistrates of the Constitutional Court voted six to three against a proposed ruling declaring that marriage applied solely to unions of men and women and that it was up to congress, not the court to decide on the issue.
“All human beings …. have the fundamental right to be married with no discrimination,” according to magistrate Alberto Rojas who voted against the ruling
A group of marriage activists who gathered outside the court rejoiced at the decision that will lead to a process whereby gay marriage will become law in the strongly Catholic South American country.
“Love triumphed,” said 25-year-old David Alonso, one of the activists. “This is a historical debt that is finally being settled,” he added.
Luis Rodriguez, a gay rights activist in Cali, saw it as a significant victory against a vocal conservative opposition.
“This is a victory against all the conservative political parties, against the Catholic church and everyone who tried to block our rights,” he said.
Alejandro Ordoñez, Colombia’s conservative inspector general, lamented the court’s decision, saying that “marriage is no longer marriage and family is no longer family.”
President Juan Manuel Santos‘ government supported activists in reaffirming the right to marry, taking on opposition from the powerful Catholic church and the independent Inspector General.
Congresswoman Angelica Lozano said that with the legal dispute near resolution Colombia’s gay community must now focus on ending discrimination.
“Today we’ve won our constitutional rights, now we need to fight on the streets and inside people’s homes,” she said.
The court had already ruled in 2015 that gay couples could adopt children but a senator, Viviane Morales, proposed a referendum that would allow Colombians to vote on whether or not the decision would become law.
Legalization of gay marriage will put Colombia in the company of just a handful of other Latin American countries who have made the move, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.