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No weddings on day gay marriage comes to Colombia

Colombia's LGBT community fight for marriage equality while officials try to offer solemn unions as an 'alternative'
Colombia's LGBT community fight for marriage equality while officials try to offer solemn unions as an 'alternative'
Gay Colombia

Couples were left in confusion in Colombia on the day legal gay marriage was supposed to come into force, following the country’s Constitutional Court’s previous ruling.

In 2011, the Constitutional Court ruled gays and lesbians will be able to legally marry from 21 June if lawmakers failed to vote for marriage equality law, as indeed happened on 24 April.

Yet despite the ruling not a single couple has been successful up to date, some were refused, while others were offered only a 'solemn union' certificate which would give them no rights but might cause them legal trouble later.

Yesterday, three couples in Bogotá went to court and filled forms asking for a marriage license.

A judge is due to rule whether they will get a date for a civil court ceremony to grant them a mariage license or have it denied, in which case he would have to provide a written response which couples can then use to file a ‘tutela’ or suit.

Such a move would expedite a response from the courts and potentially carry it up the court ladder until it reaches the highest court.

Meanwhile, seven couples in the city Cali went to a notary office and were told outright that the notary officer could only grant them a ‘solemn union’ certificate.

The notary officer also said that the only way he could grant them a marriage license was if a court ordered him to.

Colombia Diversa, the country’s main LGBT organization urged people never to sign a ‘solemn union’ contract warning that there was no such legal partnership definition.

Couples signing such contracts, warned the organization, risk finding themselves in a legal limbo down the line (for example, if they needed to separate).

However, some have not heeded to the advice, a gay couple in Bello became the first known to sign a solemn union contract.

Colombia Diversa also urged couples not to go to notary offices, as the director of the notary union had given orders not to grant same-sex marriages, defying the Supreme Court ruling.

They also encouraged couples to go to civil courts where judges had to hand them a written statement granting or not a license and a reason, which could then be taken up with a court as the couples in Bogota did.

There was also a war of words between anti-gay Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñes Maldonado and Eduardo Montealegre, the country’s Attorney General about registering gay marriage.

Ordoñes has threatened to investigate any notary official who grants a marriage license, while Montealegre affirmed that courts and notaries could marry same-sex couples and said his office would go after any notary officer who refused to grant a "solemn union" certificate or a marriage license.

Andrés Duque, a well-known Latin American LGBT rights activist and blogger who was born in Colombia and currently lives in the United States, commented to Gay Star News: ‘The courage and tenacity shown by these lesbian and gay activists in publicly opposing a so-called "solemn union" status that was made up at the last minute with the sole purpose of denying them the right to marry is beautiful and inspiring.

‘These couples are basically saying they will not accept anything less than full marriage rights and that they will go to the highest courts, if need be, to be able to say "I do".’

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