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Colombia lawmakers miss deadline to approve marriage equality

BOGATA, Colombia – Lawmakers in Colombia have failed to meet a deadline imposed by the Colombian Constitutional Court to create an equivalent of marriage for same-sex couples by June 20, 2013.

Colombia’s high court had given Congress two years to implement its edict, but lawmakers allowed a marriage bill to die in the Senate in April and did nothing since.

The high court said two years ago that if the Congress refuses to act by the deadline, gay couples will automatically have the right to go to any notary public or judge in the country to formalize their union.

And on Thursday, gay and lesbian couples in Colombia attempted to get married but were met with resistance or confusion.

Some notaries refused to marry them, citing religious beliefs. Some offered them the option of a “solemn union,” but no laws define the rights of a “solemn union.”

Marriage-equality supporters plan to return to the high court and press their case.

Congress has had numerous opportunities to approve minimal rights for same-sex couples and has failed each time.

The case, a challenge to the Article 113 of the Civil Code which defined marriage as an exclusive contract between a man and a woman with the purpose of procreation, was brought to the Constitutional Court by Colombia Diversa, the legal aid group DeJusticia and other organizations and citizens.

Currently, same-sex couples in Colombia have the equivalent of American civil unions that grant them almost all marriage rights except joint adoption. That came as a result from a Constitutional Court ruling in 2007. That case was also brought by Colombia Diversa along with other organizations.

Same-gender marriage is legal in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, the Netherlands (and the Caribbean island of Saba), New Zealand (August 2013), Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay (Aug. 1, 2013).

In Mexico, same-gender marriage is available in the Federal District (Mexico City) and in the states of Oaxaca and Quintana Roo. The marriages are recognized nationwide by Supreme Court order.

In the United States, same-gender marriage is legal in Connecticut, Delaware (July 1, 2013), Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota (Aug. 1, 2013), New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island (Aug. 1, 2013), Vermont and Washington -- and in Washington, D.C. It also is legal within the Coquille Indian tribe in Oregon, the Suquamish Indian tribe in Washington state and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians in Michigan.