Conservatives force Colombia to hold referendum on gay adoption

Supporters hope to overturn 2015 court ruling, which allows country’s homosexuals to adopt

Colombians look set to go to the polls again after the country’s senate on Tuesday gave the go-ahead for a plebiscite on proposed changes to the Constitution that would limit adoption to couples made up of a man and a woman.

An LGTB rights demonstration in Bogota in 2013.
An LGTB rights demonstration in Bogota in 2013.EITAN ABRAMOVICH AFP
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Colombia aprueba celebrar un referéndum para decidir si los gais pueden adoptar

Under the proposed constitutional changes to be voted on, homosexual couples, single people and widows would all be banned from adopting in the predominantly Catholic country.

The Colombian Senate’s decision to green-light the referendum, which is expected to receive a final sign-off from the country’s Congress in March, comes a year after a historic ruling granting same-sex couples full adoption rights. A year earlier, homosexuals had been given permission to adopt their partner’s biological children.

The plebiscite is the result of a concerted campaign by Christian senator Viviana Morales and her husband, the Evangelical Christian leader Carlos Alonso Lucio, who collected two million signatures as part of her push to have the 2015 decision overturned.

But human rights groups and LGTBQ activists have come out in protest against the plans.

The “traditional values” slogan of Christian senator Viviana Morales swayed senators

“For several years now, single mothers and fathers, widows and divorcees have been able to vote and this referendum will end that option, classifying some people and families as first class, while others will be second class,” said Senator Claudia López, one of the chief opponents of the planned vote.

During a heated debate on the issue in the Senate, opponents argued the decision would further entrench a sexist ideology that devalues both women in general and single mothers in particular, a group that makes up 36% of all families in Colombia.

“This referendum would enshrine an absurd situation where the same woman is suitable to be a biological mother but not fit to adopt,” said López, who added the proposed changes were “fuel on the fire” when it came to the country’s domestic violence problem, noting the 75,000 attacks on women and children in the country every year.

But the “traditional values” slogan of Senator Morales and her husband swayed senators, who backed the referendum.

The gay community in Colombia has made small steps in recent years for civil protection, such as inheritance and health rights and sharing their partners’ pensions.

The referendum will classify some people and familes as first class and others as second class Senator Claudia López

In April, a landmark ruling saw Colombia’s Constitutional Court effectively approve same-sex marriage, making it the fourth country in Latin America to do so.

However, many elements of the country remain deeply conservative with observers noting that Colombia’s Evangelists played a key role in voter rejection of an October plebiscite on a peace deal with the guerilla group FARC.

Colombian media outlets noted that Gina Parody, who led the government’s Yes campaign, stepped down as education minister following the failed plebiscite. Parody, a lesbian, has faced a sustained campaign from right-wing groups over her sexual orientation.

English version by George Mills.


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