Wednesday, April 13, 2011

(Almost) equal rights for gay couples

Today, the Supreme Court moved same-sex couples another step closer to legal equality with heterosexuals, and perhaps even marriage, by granting them inheritance rights.

inheritance rights
Sebastian Romero and Arturo Sanjuan near their apartment
in the Chapinero Alto neighborhood of Bogotá. 
Thanks to another court decision three years ago, Colombia recognized same-sex unions, giving such couples most of the same rights as straight common-law couples. Surprisingly for a conservative, very Catholic nation Colombia is one of the most progressive nations in the region in terms of gay rights. (Gay marriage is legal in Argentina and Mexico City.)

The court is also expected to consider adoption by same-sex couples, at least in cases when the child is the biological offspring of one of the partners. A few years ago, when I interviewed gay activists, several told me that Colombians weren't ready to accept gay marriage. I wonder whether they think that's since changed. Back then, Catholic Church leaders accepted same-sex unions, 'as long as it's not called marriage.'

Colombia still has a conservative culture, altho one poll last year found that six of ten bogotanos favored legalizing gay marriage. The courts appear to be ahead of public sentiment, in great degree due to Colombia's progressive 1991 Constitution.

In contrast to the U.S., issues such as gay rights and abortion haven't produced social and political schisms in Colombia. Gay rights organizations here do report attacks against sexual minorities. However, there is also lots of tolerance. I often see same-sex couples holding hands, even in areas outside of Chapinero, known as the city's gay neighborhood.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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