Colombia became the fourth South American country to allow same-sex marriage when the constitutional court definitively legalized it on Thursday.
The Catholic country follows Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay in formally recognizing the rights of same-sex couples to marry.
“The judges affirmed by a majority that marriage between people of the same sex does not violate constitutional order,” presiding Judge Maria Victoria Calle told the court.
“The current definition of the institution of marriage in civil law applies to them in the same way as it does for couples of the same sex.”
Although previous rulings allowed gay couples to formalize their unions before notaries and judges, same-sex marriage had remained a legal gray area and appeals had been launched against it.
Many officials had refused to register such marriages since congress failed to pass legislation enshrining equal marriage rights in law, prompting protests from gay-rights campaigners.
On April 7, the constitutional court dismissed a petition against equal marriage rights for heterosexual and homosexual couples.
That paved the way for Thursday’s ruling, which definitively establishes that the constitution guarantees such equality, giving gay couples the legal right to marry.
The decision is set to be recorded as an irrevocable constitutional ruling within a month, making it legally valid.
Six of the court’s nine judges approved the ruling that “all people are free to choose independently to start a family in keeping with their sexual orientation… receiving equal treatment under the constitution and the law.”
State judges, notaries and clerks “must ensure that citizens’ fundamental rights are observed and that they are all granted equal treatment,” the court ruled.