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Colombia nixes same-sex marriage ban

The Constitutional Court in Bogota has thrown out a judge's opinion prohibiting civil unions from being registered as marriages for gay couples. Formal legalization is expected in the coming weeks.

Colombia's highest court took a key step towards allowing same-sex couples to marry on Thursday. The gay community in the conservative Catholic country hailed the Constitutional Court's rejection of a ban on recognizing civil unions as marriages.

"Love triumphed," said one activist who was among several dozen celebrating outside the courthouse. "This is a historical debt that is finally being settled."

Gay couples in Colombia are already permitted to enter into civil unions, which offer health and pension benefits, though the important symbolic recognition of partnerships as marriages was denied.

On Thursday, the Constitutional Court rejected, by a tally of six to three, a justice's opinion that would have stopped public notaries from registering the unions as marriages. The next few weeks will likely see a new ruling in line with the majority opinion, effectively legalizing gay marriage in the South American country, putting it alongside Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay.

The progressive high court has already shown its readiness to broaden LGBT rights, ruling last year that same-sex couples could adopt children and decreeing in 2011 that civil unions for gay couples had to be recorded in such a away as to prevent discrimination.

President Juan Manual Santos has come out in support of gay marriage, going against the power wielded by the Catholic Church in Colombia.

es/msh (AP, AFP)

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