On Wednesday, February 18, Colombian lawyers, scholars and activists will arrive at a special session of the country’s Constitutional Court to argue for and against allowing same-sex couples to jointly adopt.
The case has been winding its way through Colombian courts for more than a year, but Wednesday’s decision is expected to be the final word — at least for now — on the issue. The Constitutional Court has voted on the case, but the decision ended in a tie, with four justices voting in favor and four voting against.
Associate Justice José Roberto Herrera Vergara was appointed to rule on the case, with representatives for both sides presenting their arguments before him and the court on Wednesday, in a session that is expected to last throughout the day and possibly into the night.
Some pro-adoption groups have expressed concern about the appointment of Herrera, who has a history of conservative rulings on social issues, especially those related to the LGBT community.
Last year, the same court ruled in favor of allowing Verónica Botero and Ana Elisa Leiderman, a couple who married in Germany in 2005, to assume equal responsibilities as parents for their daughter, born in Medellín.
Colombia’s government, as well as the Health Ministry and the Colombian Family Welfare Institute, have all submitted documents saying that they have not identified any risks for the well-being or health of children based on adoption by a same-sex couple, nor that the sexual orientation of a child’s parents has any effect on the child’s development.
Despite the tacit support of government entities, however, the debate has stirred up plenty of controversy in the traditionally Catholic nation. The Universidad de la Sábana, a respected university near Bogotá, set off its own crisis when it presented a study, used as supporting evidence by those opposed to legalizing same-sex adoption, that said LGBT individuals exhibited behavior that indicated “an illness in some ways.”
The negative reaction from the Colombian public was swift and indignant, with students and politicians calling on the university to apologize. The institution later retracted the statement, but has said it does not plan to host a debate on the issue, as has been requested by Representative Angélica Lozano, Colombia’s only openly gay congressional representative.
Meanwhile, other political groups are seizing on the debate as an opportunity to promote their own initiatives. The center-right U party has announced its intention to bring the issue in front of Colombia’s Senate. At the same time, the conservative Democratic Center party, led by former president Álvaro Uribe, has insisted that the decision should rest with the Colombian people through a national referendum.
Representative Federico Hoyos, one of the main proponents in Congress of the referendum, said that if people were asking for a referendum for an issue of as “little significance” as bullfights, then the same should be done for a question like same-sex adoption.
The debate has caught the attention of other countries like Argentina and Mexico, with social media users posting in favor of the measure, under the hashtag #SiALaAdopciónIgualitaria (#YesToEqualAdoption).
A ruling in favor of allowing same-sex couples to adopt would make Colombia the fifth country in South America to legalize joint adoption, joining Argentina, Brazil, French Guiana and Uruguay.