Colombia’s Constitutional Court has ruled that same-sex partners should be given the same pension and health benefits as heterosexual families.

On 17 April, the court acknowledged that to exclude same-sex partners from these pension and health benefits would violate the principle of non-discrimination and human dignity as the expression of personal autonomy, protected by international law.

“Same-sex partners in Colombia now have a broader legal framework to guarantee their equality,” said José Miguel Vivanco, director of the Americas Division at Human Rights Watch. “Colombia’s court set an example for the region; other countries should follow suit.”

The decision comes a year after the United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled in favour of a Colombian man, Mr. X, who sought his deceased partner’s pension.

The UN committee concluded that by denying a life partner in a same-sex couple pension rights on the basis of his sexual orientation, Colombia had violated the right to equality and non-discrimination as protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Despite the UN committee’s March 30, 2007 ruling, the Colombian government claimed that it lacked a legal framework that would allow it to reconsider the case and therefore could not give Mr. X his life partner’s pension.

In August last year a group of Colombian human rights organisations and legal academics challenged the relevant laws in Colombia. The petitioners asked the Constitutional Court to extend the protection of health and pension benefits to same-sex partnerships to comply with the principles of human dignity, equality, and non-discrimination.

“The court’s decision now removes any legal obstacles to granting Mr. X the requested benefits, and gives the government the opportunity to set a positive precedent for similar cases in the future,” said Vivanco. “The ruling embraces basic human right principles that should be followed in every sphere.”

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