Increased rights for Colombian same-sex partners “not automatic”

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Gay and lesbian couples in Colombia still face challenges after a ruling granting them increased rights.

The decision by the Constitutional Court means that same-sex partners will now have all of the guarantees and benefits offered to unmarried heterosexual couples, except adoption.

The ruling expanded on earlier legal decisions issued by the Court in 2007 and 2008, which extended several common-law marriage property and inheritance rights, as well as social security and health insurance rights, to same-sex couples.

It is estimated that 300,000 LGBT couples will now enjoy full inheritance rights and the right to Colombian nationality for a foreigner in a same-sex union with a Colombian in the country.

Members of same-sex couples cannot be forced to testify against their partners and those in the armed forces will receive benefits previously limited to heterosexual couples.

Same-sex couples will also have the right to reparations when one of the partners suffers from armed conflict-related crimes like murder, torture, sexual abuse, or forced displacement or disappearance.

However, experts have said that while the law has been passed, efforts must be made to ensure it is enforced.

Lawyer Mauricio Albarracín, a member of gay civil rights advocacy group Colombia Diversa’s legal committee, told news agency IPS:

“What was achieved was a reform to all of the existing laws and rules, and now it must be put into effect in all spheres.

“Public and private employees must be given instructions, and people must be encouraged to use the new rights, preventing more discrimination or demands that gays and lesbians be required to provide additional requisites.

“Our immediate task is to make sure that the ruling is enforced in all spheres.”

Head of Colombia Diversa Marcela Sánchez said that compliance with the court decision “is not automatic, and we have to demand government measures to help the content of the ruling overcome prejudices, and to assist people who don’t know how to use what they have never had.”

She added that the group would continue to fight for the rights to marry and adopt.