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Colombian judges begin granting civil unions to gay couples

Inspector general says he will fight the new marriages

A Colombian judge has granted a gay couple a marriage licence, among the first in that country’s history, Colombian national newspaper El Espectador reports.

"I join you in a legitimate civil matrimony, with all the prerogatives and rights that civil law grants you and the same obligations imposed by civil law," local judge Julio Gonzalez told partners Elizabeth Castillo and Claudia Zea Sept 25, in the village of Gachetá.

Judge Gonzalez is among dozens of judges around Colombia who must make difficult individual decisions on gay marriage. In 2011, Colombia’s high court ruled that the government must pass laws to legalize gay unions. After elected officials failed to do so, the court’s ruling automatically transferred authority to local judges and officials this summer.

However, high government officials, including the country’s inspector general, threatened local officials with prosecution if they married gay couples.

This has left individual local judges to determine whether or not to grant marriage licences.

According to Latin American LGBT blog Blabbeando, other judges have granted civil unions to gay couples in the past week, or “solemn unions,” a term that has no particular standing in Colombian law. Judge Gonzalez was among the first to use the word matrimonio in his ruling.

Colombia’s inspector general says he will fight the new marriages, but Colombian legal experts say that the marriages likely cannot be annulled.