Right wing politicians have, at the last minute, killed a bill that would have made the strongly Roman Catholic Colombia the first Latin American country to grant national equal rights to same-sex couples.

The historic bill would have granted gay and lesbian couples the same health insurance, social security and inheritance rights held by heterosexual couples.

Slightly different versions of the bill, which was supported by conservative President Alvaro Uribe, had earlier passed in the Senate and House of Representatives – an event that led to celebration among the country’s LGBT community. The final vote for the law was expected to be a technicality.

However, on Tuesday, Senator Manuel Virguez Piraquive, with ties to an evangelical church, called for an unexpected and unscheduled floor vote on the bill. Other conservatives broke ranks from their parties’ official support for the law and voted as individuals to kill the bill. Matters weren’t helped by the fact that many of the bill’s supporters were not present during the surprise vote.

This is the fifth time that the bill has failed to be adopted by the legislature. Supporters of the law say that they will re-introduce the bill in the next session of Congress.

In February, the country’s Constitutional Court gave some property and inheritance rights to same-sex couples.

Meanwhile, in nearby Costa Rica, a bill recognising same-sex relationships has been introduced in that country’s Congress. The governing party has said that will vote against the law.

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