From left: Elizabeth Castillo, Claudia Zea, Sandra Marcela Rojas, and Adriana Gonzalez outside a Bogotá court Thursday, before filing documents to apply for legal relationship recognition.
Same-Sex Unions — Maybe Marriages — Begin in Colombia

By Trudy Ring

Originally published on Advocate.com June 21 2013 1:24 PM ET

Colombian same-sex couples began applying for legal recognition of their relationships Thursday, in light of a court ruling that went into effect, but it remained unclear if their unions would be deemed marriages.

“Colombia’s Constitutional Court in 2011 ruled gays and lesbians can legally register their relationships on June 20 if the country’s lawmakers failed to extend to them the same benefits heterosexuals receive through marriage,” the Washington Blade notes. “The Colombian Senate in April overwhelmingly rejected a measure that would have allowed same-sex couples to tie the knot in the South American country.”

The ruling did not use the term “marriage” but said couples could “formalize and solemnize their contractual link” before a notary or a judge. Some officials have said this excluded the possibility of equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples, but Colombia’s attorney general, Eduardo Montealegre Lynett, “said notaries and judges are free to interpret the court’s decision” as they wish, the Blade reports, citing a Colombian newspaper.

Couples began submitting paperwork to these authorities yesterday. “There are many couples like us in this country who have found their relationships have reached the point of committing themselves in civil marriage,” Elizabeth Castillo said in a press conference outside a municipal courthouse in Bogotá, the nation’s capital, where she and partner Claudia Zea applied to register their union. “For gay people to marry is an act of valor.”

The LGBT rights group Colombia Diversa has encouraged any couple denied a civil marriage to file a legal challenge.