Friday, October 16, 2009

Colombia: Court says gay man has right to equal share of property in separation from partner

Is this another first in Latin America?

The top court in the city of Pereira, Colombia, located in the center-west state of Risaralda, has ruled that when a same-sex couple splits, the former partners are entitled to an equal distribution of belongings, just as married heterosexual partners are given the same right.

The verdict follows a January ruling by the Colombian Supreme Court which stopped short of granting marriage or civil union rights to same-sex partners but basically said that gay couples should enjoy the same rights as heterosexual partners.

In this case, Julio Alfredo Girardo (pictured above), who had spent 27 years with Jorge Eduardo Gómez Alzate, went to court and sued him after Gómez Alzate dumped him and took their belongings. On Tuesday, El Tiempo reported that a lower court had already judged against Girardo last year. Girardo decided to appeal the decision and emerged victorious. The court determined that there was enough proof of a "marital society" between the men, which also meant that Girardo had the right to an equal distribution of belongings.

"I wasn't about to do what many people do, who, for fear of letting others know about their homosexuality, they remain quiet," said Girardo. "Someone had to take the step, and that was me".

Attorney Fabio Girardo Sanz, speaking to Caracol Radio, said that the ruling set a national precedent and could apply to other regions in the country for individuals in a similar situation.

So there is still no civil unions or marriage rights for same-sex couples in Colombia but the courts are beginning to recognize same-sex couples as family units deserving the same rights as heterosexual partners.

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