While the Colombian legislature got closer than ever to recognizing certain rights for same-sex couples last year, gay rights advocates were not sitting idly nor placing all their eggs on the legislative basket.
In June, working with experts from the Andes University law school and the Public Interest Law Clinic, gay rights organization Colombia Diversa filed three suits before the Supreme Court challenging parts of the constitution that regulate benefits granted to unmarried opposite-sex couples who are in a permanent partnership for not recognizing the same rights for same-sex partners.
On December 6th, by a vote of 5-4, the Supreme Court dismissed one of the suits on a technicality. The suit argued that Law 100, passed in 1993, discriminated against same-sex couples by not allowing them to have access to their partner's pension benefits, should one of them die, as is the case with opposite-sex permanent partners.
But today, thanks to a second of the constitutional challenges, the leading story of the El Espectador newsweekly reads "Gays on the brink of getting patrimony rights."
In this case the claimants argue that articles 1 and 2 of Law 54, passed in 1993, which allow opposite-sex couples to have joint control over their patrimony through permanent partnerships, discriminate against same-sex couples seeking to protect their mutual belongings.
What has stunned observers, according to the paper, is that the Justice that is introducing the topic for a vote is Rodrigo Escobar Gil, known for his conservative rulings when it comes to gay rights, in a sign that he will side with the claimants and vote in favor of granting the right to patrimony to same-sex couples. They make note that the decision will not touch on other divisive issues such as marriage or adoption rights but El Espectador says that it would be the first time that the Colombian Supreme Court would recognize same-sex partners as family
Leaders of Colombia Diversa, including President Marcela Sanchez (pictured above and also one of the people named in the suit), told the newspaper that it would be wrong to assume how the court will vote (they need 5 of 9 Justices to side with them). After all, it's not the first time that a leading newspaper has wrongly forecast a gay rights victory (most recently El Tiempo which said on December 2nd that the House of Representatives would grant certain rights to same-sex partners in the last days of the 2006 legislative session before the bill was allowed to die due to filibuster tactics and lack of quorum when it came for an actual vote).
The court's ruling will be known before February 13.
Previously we have also featured Colombia Diversa board member Virgilio Barco Isakson.
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