A discussion over gay marriage in Colombia’s congress Thursday literally came to blows, emphatically illustrating the extent to which the issue has divided the country.
Angelica Lozano, a councilor for Colombia’s capital of Bogota, along with a gay rights activist, were reportedly assaulted in the midst of a congressional forum to discuss the gay marriage bill, originally introduced to congress in 2012.
The assault occurred after Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez, a staunch opposer of gay marriage, took to the floor to speak on the issue. According to Lozano, soon after Ordoñez had finished his speech, a gay rights activist began shouting in indignation, claiming that those who promote same-sex marriage had a right to be heard.
“The speech of the inspector general had finished and we asked to speak. However, an activist near me, who I do not [personally] know, began to shout and to say that they [members of congress] must let him speak. When he [the activist] began to shout, he was immediately booed, various people rushed over, we are not sure if they were bodyguards, but by the end of the struggle we had been hit,” said Lozano.
However, Councilor Clara Lucia Sandoval, who opposes gay marriage, gave a contrary account of the altercation, claiming that Lozano was trying to provoke an aggressive response.
The congressional forum was convened by two senators who oppose the gay marriage bill, Edgar Espindola and Claudia Wilches, ahead of the second of four debates to be held next week over the gay marriage bill. In anticipation of the debate, the inspector general, members of the Catholic church, and various Christian organizations formed a new alliance in the Senate against gay marriage this past Wednesday.
While the assault marks a new low point for congress in the gay marriage debate, it is not the first time Colombia’s lawmakers have embarrassed themselves over the issue. One particular senator, Robertoo Gerlein, claimed in November 2012 that homosexuals have “a smaller hypothalamus.” It remains unclear what century produced the scientific study referenced by the senator.
In accordance with a 2011 constitutional court ruling, congress must legislate on gay marriage before June 20 2013, or same-sex couples will automatically be granted the right to go before a notary or a court to have their partnership recognized.
Video footage of the altercation: