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Common Law Marriage
The Colombian Approach
© January 29, 2009, Demian

On January 28, 2009, Colombia’s Constitutional Court ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to the same rights as opposite-sex couples in common-law marriages. The ruling means that civil and political rights such as nationality, residency, housing protection, and state benefits are now granted to same-sex partners.

While the Colombian 1991 constitution promises equal rights for all citizens — and homosexual relationships were decriminalized in the 1980s — serious human rights violations against LGBT people are commonplace.

The ruling was a result of an April 2008 suit by the gay rights group Colombia Diversa, the Centre for Law, Justice and Society (Dejusticia), and the Group of Public Interest Law at the University of the Andes.

Colombia, a South American country of 45 million people, is largely Roman Catholic, and there is significant discrimination against gay people, despite other recent court rulings granting rights to same-sex couples. On numerous occasions, the police have been accused of abuse of authority and mistreatment of gay people. However, since the election of Álvaro Uribe Vélez in 2002, the situation has improved somewhat.

Not a Model for Family Recognition in U.S.

This common law marriage status does not work as a model for America, because it is only available in certain states in the U.S. and has never applied to same-sex couples. It allows for some marriage law to apply to opposite-sex couples who have lived together a certain length of time. The exact laws that apply — and the time necessary to trigger common-law status — vary by state.
      [Please see our article: Common-Law Marriage States]

Attempting to install common law marriage status would demand the same energy that it would take to make a Civil Union law, which requires duplicating 150-to-350 laws in each state, and more than 1,138 laws on the federal level. The idea is completely impractical.
      [See U.S. Federal Laws for the Legally Married.]

While such contracts are an attempt to create equal treatment, they only reinforce a separate and totally unequal status, one we consider to be a manifestation of apartheid.
      [See Marrying Apartheid: The Failure of Domestic Partnership Status]

Governments that offer Full Legal Marriage

    Netherlands (2001)
    Belgium (2003)
    Canada (2005)
    Spain (2005)
    South Africa (2005)
    Norway (2009)
    Sweden (2009)
    Iceland (2010)
    Argentina (2010)
    Portugal (2010)
    Denmark (2012)
    France (2013)
    New Zealand (2013)
    Brazil (2013)
    Uruguay (2013)
    New Zealand (2013)
    United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland) (2013)
    Luxembourg (2014)
    Finland (2014)
    Ireland (2015)
US States & Territories

    Massachusetts (2004)
    California (2008)
    Connecticut (2008)
    Iowa (2009)
    Vermont (2009)
    New Hampshire (2009)
    District of Columbia (2009)
    New York (2011)
    Maine (2012)
    Washington (2012)
    Maryland (2013)
    Rhode Island (2013)
    Delaware (2013)
    Minnesota (2013)
    Illinois (2013)
    Utah (2013)
    New Jersey (2013)
    Hawaii (2013)
    New Mexico (2013)
    Michigan (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
    Oregon (2014)

    Wisconsin (2014)
    Arkansas (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
    Pennsylvania (2014)
    Indiana (2014)
    Nevada (2014)
    Virginia (2014)
    Oklahoma (2014)
    Idaho (2014)
    West Virginia (2014)
    Alaska (2014)
    Arizona (2014)
    Wyoming (2014)
    Kansas (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
    Florida (2014)
    Colorado (2014)
    North Carolina (2014)
    South Carolina (2014)
    Montana (2014)
    Alabama (2015)
    U.S. Supreme Court (June 26, 2015):
        All U.S. States must now allow same-sex
        couples the freedom of legal marriage.
Native American Tribes

    Coquille Tribe, Oregon (2009)
    Mashantucket Pequot, Connecticut (2011)
    Suquamish Tribe, Washington (2011)
    Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Washington (2013)
    Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Minnesota (2013)
    Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Michigan (2013)
    Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, Michigan (2013)
    Santa Ysabel Tribe, California (2013)
    Confederated Tribes of the Colville Nation, Washington (2013)
    Cheyenne, Oklahoma (2013)
    Arapaho, Oklahoma (2013)
    Leech Lake Tribal Court, Minnesota (2013)
    Puyallup Tribe, Washington (2914)
    Wind River Indian Reservation, Wyoming (2014)
    Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Michigan, (2014)
    Colville Confederated Tribes, Washington (2014)
    Central Council of Tlingit, Alaska (2015)
    Haida Indian Tribes, Alaska (2015)

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