With the assistance of Bill Kelley, Rex has included a lengthier translation of the top court's decision than I originally provided. I am including excerpts here with the full permission of the author (please do not reproduce elsewhere unless you are also granted permission by Rex).
From the column:
The court said, "If the 1999 constitutional body opted to protect monogamous matrimony between a man and a woman as the essential nucleus that gives origin to the family in the Venezuelan historic and cultural context, the extension of its [marriage's] effects to common-law unions ... should require, at the least, that these [unions] fulfill the same essential requirements -- that they are stable and monogamous unions between a man and a woman who have no marriage impediment ... and that the union is based on the free consent of the parties."That last statement from a press release sent out over the weekend by Unión Afirmativa (Affirmative Union) in response to the ruling.
But the tribunal added, "The court wants to emphasize that the constitutional norm does not prohibit or condemn common-law unions between persons of the same sex, which find constitutional cover in the fundamental right of free development of the personality; it simply does not grant them reinforced protection, which does not constitute a discriminatory act in regard to sexual orientation."
Judge Carmen Zuleta de Merchán dissented from the decision, arguing that the Constitution grants implicit rights to same-sex couples, and that the other justices were influenced by ingrained social and religious prejudices.
The gay group Affirmative Union of Venezuela commented: "We see this decision as an advance with respect to the previous situation in which we had no legal existence, we were invisibilized and our human condition was negated in this society. ... We commit ourselves to continue fighting, with all legal means within our reach, to obtain what should be common sense: the overcoming of discrimination in Venezuelan society."
In the wake of the decision, we also reached out to Unión Afirmativa and asked them whether the court's ruling would derail ongoing legislative efforts to recognize rights for same-sex couples.
José Ramón Merentes, General Coordinator of Unión Afirmativa, replied and told Blabbeando:
"Hi, Andrés. Thanks for your inquiry. Notwithstanding having solicited a clarification from the constitutional wing, in the terms stated by the dissenting vote of Justice Zuleta, we believe that said vote allows the National Assembly the possibility - even if not the 'responsibility' - of acting to protect [the rights of] homosexual couples, who cannot call themselves equal to heterosexuals, thanks to the alleged 'substantial difference' between homosexual and heterosexual partners.We agree with Unión Afirmativa and wonder where defenders of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez supposedly gay-friendly government stand tonight.
What the ruling indicates is that the Venezuelan state is not obliged [to meet] the rights of gay partnerships, as they are when facing heterosexual partners, but if the legislative body so desires, it can address the issue. We feel calm and optimism in that this sentence can be 'dismantled' based on international measures and that it gives us the possibility of reaching out [to the international courts] immediately - without waiting a second longer - since we have run out of internal arguments."