In Colombia, three gay men have become the first polyamorous family to be legally recognized by the authorities, and afforded rights similar to those enjoyed by married people.
Victor Hugo Prada, an actor, sports instructor John Alejandro Rodriguez, and Manuel Jose Bermudez, a journalist, have signed legal documents with a Medellin-based solicitor. The documents establish them as a family unit, with their own inheritance rights.
"This establishes us as a family, a polyamorous family. It is the first time in Colombia that has been done," Prada said in a video widely disseminated by Colombian media.
Lawyer and LGBTQ rights activist German Rincon Perfetti Perfetti described the move as historic. "It's a recognition that other types of family exist," he told the AFP.
Local media reports that the men would have entered into a four-way union had it not been for the death of one of their partners from cancer. They plan to hold a marriage ceremony, after which they will go on a honeymoon.
In Latin America, Colombia has been seen as relatively progressive when it comes to recognizing LGBTQ rights. Same-sex marriage was legalized in April 2016, whilst in a landmark decision in 2015 the constitutional court removed restrictions on same-sex adoption. Despite this, as in many other countries around the world, polyamorous relationships are not afforded legal recognition.
While polygamy (the practice of of taking multiple husbands or wives, but commonly wives) is legal in some countries for mainly religious reasons, polyamorous families do not enjoy similar legal protections. But there is a nascent movement pushing for polyamorous unions to enjoy legal recognitions similar to those enjoyed by monogamous couples. In 2015, Zoe Duff of the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association spoke of hopes that, one day, "[we'd] have households where our spouses are equal under the law, and moving forward in terms of pensions, and inheritances and property division."
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"It's an incredibly progressive decision," says lawyer and alternative sexuality campaigner Myles Jackman. "I've been talking about similar things in this country for years. It's extremely cheering to see alternative family units being recognized and afforded legal protections."
From a practical point of view, the benefits of such an arrangement are clear. "Legally, in the event of relationship breakdown children are provided and protected for. Parents have visitation rights, and stakes or financial benefits can equitably be distributed between the relevant parties," Jackman explains.
Pragmatism aside, Jackman views today's announcement as a step forward in the struggle of polygamous communities for legal equality. "It's extremely heartening for people who want certain legal protections for individuals who possess certain lifestyles," he explains. "I hope the legal system will be able to arbitrate and adjudicate swiftly and move onto issues of polyamorous relationships and legal protection issues."