Without much fanfare, a Colombian Senate committee rejected a bill on Wednesday that would have brought the legislative branch of the Colombian government up to speed with several Constitutional Court rulings determining that same-sex couples should be granted access to limited partnership benefits.
According to a statement released by Senator Gloria Inés Ramírez, the bill would have addressed what the country's top court identified as a legislative "deficit of protection" for same-sex couples. It would also have extended all the legal rights and protections already afforded to heterosexual couples in a common-law unions or long-term partnerships to same-sex couples.
It was the sixth time since 1999 that such a bill was rejected (the last time being June of 2007 when a similar bill was widely expected to pass and be signed by President Alvaro Uribe into law).
In the last two years, Colombia's Constitutional Court had determined that same-sex couples must be granted the right to share their common assets (Feb. 2007), their social security and health insurance benefits (Oct. 2007), and their pension benefits (Apr. 2008).
The Senate's failure to act does not mean that same-sex couples have lost any of these limited protections. If I understand correctly, it means that same-sex partners can continue to avail themselves by registering their names at at a notary office - but it still falls short of having the actual relationship be recognized as a civil union or marriage.
Gay-friendly notary public shot to death last night in Bogota: Now, back in February, I reported that it didn't seem to matter to a number of same-sex couples that access to a few rights did not mean that same-sex civil unions had been or were even close to being recognized by the government: They treated it as such anyway.
According to El Tiempo, notary public Norberto Salamanca - who oversaw partnership registrations at Notary Office 76 - stated that he'd "seen couples and guests carrying wedding invites in their hand, reading statements, taking pictures of the event and exchanging rings," adding "Some couples kiss each other to seal the ceremony" (see "One Bogota notary office, a hundred same-sex partnership registrations").
For his willingness to be on camera and to be interviewed by media during some of these ceremonies, Mr. Salamanca became perhaps the best-known notary public accepting these types of registrations (at the time El Tiempo had identified only two notary offices willing to register -sex couples in all of Bogota and said that Mr. Salamanca's office led in number of registrations putting the figure at 100).
Imagine my sadness this morning when I read reports online that Mr. Salamanca had been shot to death at 8:15 last night while he sat in his car.
Mexico's Milenio says that the police were looking for two gunmen who "escaped with great velocity towards an unknown destination."
They also note that Salamanca was well-known for his work with gay couples, "which cost him criticism from diverse conservative organizations that graded him as a detractor of morality."
Colombia's El Espectador says that Mr. Salamanca had driven his Mercedes Benz and had parked outside a building in an upper-class Bogota neighborhood as he waited to pick up his children from their place of residence. He was shot four times and died before his body was brought to a nearby hospital.
El Tiempo says that authorities are offering a reward equivalent to $24,000 dollars to anyone who provides information that leads them to the killer, who was said to be between 22 and 24 years of age, and said that they were also looking for a second man who was seen running away from the scene.
General Rodolfo Palomino, Director of the Bogota Police Department, said that they assume that those responsible for the crime are people who are opposed to same-sex partnerships but Salamanca's family told the paper that they didn't see a clear reason as to why someone would want to kill Mr. Salamanca.
In the meantime, El Espectador has uploaded a Caracol News segment on YouTube (below) which includes an interview Mr. Salamanca gave to CM& News hours before he was killed.
In the interview, Mr. Salamanca is asked whether notary officials should be authorized to act as judges while hundreds of judicial workers are engaging in a current ongoing strike. (bringing to a halt thousands of court cases).
Mr. Salamanca argues that notary officers can indeed serve as judges in some cases if only to assist with the backlog and that the notary office system provides a viable infrastructure for these cases to move forward in light that the court system has shut down.
Eerily he begins the interview with these words: "Since in Colombia there is no justice..."
Let's hope that's not the case and that justice comes in his murder.
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