On Wednesday, Colombia’s Constitutional Court ruled that gay couples can adopt children just like any other couple, as long as all other guidelines are met.
The 6-2 decision, which followed 10 hours of debate, was a landmark for gay rights in Colombia, where couples could previously only adopt if the child was one of the adoptive parent’s biological son or daughter.
“A person’s sexual orientation or gender are not in and of themselves indicative of a lack of moral, physical or mental suitability to adopt,” said María Victoria Calle Correa, chief justice of Colombia’s highest court following the ruling.
The push toward greater legal rights for Colombia’s LGBT community began in 2011, when the Constitutional Court found that gay people lacked the rights to form a family afforded their heterosexual peers. The court ordered the national Congress to correct the situation, but they have been slow to do so.
Gay couples still cannot legally marry in Colombia, for example.
But one condition of the Constitutional Court’s 2011 decision stipulated that gay couples would be allowed to enter into civil unions at the end of 2013 unless Congress acted to legalize full marriage rights.
Congress rejected a bill that year that would have legalized same-sex marriage.
As a result, Colombian couples who have cohabited or can prove that they have been in a relationship for a period of time can enter into a civil union, which provides essentially the same benefits as a marriage.
”Excluding families from being potential adoptive parents would be a limitation on the right of children to have a family.”
But allowing LGBT couples to adopt children should help the push to legalize same-sex marriage. If the Court has found that gay couples offer essentially the same family structure as heterosexual couples, it is difficult to argue that they shouldn’t be able to marry in the same way.
“Legal rulings do not recognize the existence of certain types of families, but rather the family itself who demands that society and the State serve to protect their welfare and preservation,” said the National Attorney General’s office in a statement following the Wednesday ruling.
Nonetheless, opponents of the gay rights movement have pledged to appeal the decision, according to the BBC.
But Colombia’s LGBT community responded with celebration on Thursday, counting the ruling as one more victory on the road to full acceptance.
“This ruling is one more step towards ending discrimination,” said Marcela Sánchez, director of Colombia Diversa, an organization that provides support for the nation’s LGBT community and lobbies for gay rights.
Indeed, for gay Colombians and children in need of loving adoptive families, the Constitutional Court’s decision is a monumental shift.