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Colombia Is Divided Over Constitutional Court's Ruling in Favor of Same-Sex Marriage

The constitutional court’s rejection of a proposal defining marriage as heterosexual has sparked an outpouring of polarized opinion pitting a progressive opinion against deeply rooted conservative traditions.

by Alan Hernandez
Apr 8 2016, 5:25pm

Imagen por Mauricio Dueñas Castañeda/EPA

A ruling by Colombia's highest court throwing out a proposal to define marriage as being between a man and a woman has sparked both jubilation and rage.

Thursday's ruling saw the current liberal majority in the Constitutional Court reject the proposal by conservative magistrate Jorge Pretelt by six votes to three. The historic decision also ruled that notaries who refuse to marry same-sex couples are violating constitutional rights.

The news triggered a passionate outpouring of polarized feeling on social media, with tens of thousands of tweets dominating national trends.

Hashtags such as #matrimonioigualitario, or #equalmarriage, took off among young and liberal Colombians, dominated by words such as "pride," "love," and "inclusion."

"Love wins! We now have equality before the law. We will also win equality in life! #EqualityIsUnstoppable."

Meanwhile, conservatives peppered their posts with references to "sin" and the "apocalypse." Mentions of Sodom and Gomorrah became particularly popular thanks to a comment made by Bishop José Daniel Falla, secretary general of the Colombian episcopal conference.

"They can do whatever they want, fucking here and fucking there," the bishop told reporters. "It is all going to end up as Sodom and Gomorrah."

"With #EqualMarriage those who are sick with homosexuality will spread their infection throughout Colombia."

The Colombian constitution has legally recognized same-sex unions as civil contracts since 2011, but the new ruling opens a path to giving these the same status as heterosexual marriages. The plenary of the constitutional court has now asked Judge Alberto Rojas Ríos to draw up a proposal for eliminating discrimination based on sexual preference from Colombian marriage laws.

This week's events put Colombia among a small but growing group of Latin American countries — most notably Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, and Mexico — that have approved some form of same-sex marriage in recent years.

Related: Conservative Chile Moves to Legalize Abortion and Same-Sex Civil Unions

They are the latest in a series of liberalizing moves in Colombia flying in the face of the country's deeply rooted socially conservative traditions. Last year the court ruled in favor of gay adoption and abortion in some limited cases. The nominally conservative president, Juan Manuel Santos, also signed a decree decriminalizing medicinal marijuana.

Follow Alan Hernández on Twitter: @alanpasten