Colombia took once step closer to the legalisation of gay marriage today when the First Committee of the Senate approved the bill that enshrines the rights of two people of the same sex to wed.

In what could turn out as the first stage of a hugely important victory for the LGBT community, the First Committee members voted resoundingly in favour of the proposal by 10 votes to 5. The sponsor of the bill, Senator Armando Benedetti, stated that “in this country homosexuals have economic and social security rights, so it is time to advance toward marital rights.”

In an unsubtle taunt towards opponents of the bill, Senator Luis Carlos Avellaneda Tarazona of the Alternative Democratic Pole stated that “being gay is not a contagious disease as many want to claim”, and that “equity and equality” was at stake.

Among the most outspoken of these opponents has been Colombia Conservative Party Senator Roberto Gerlein, whose branding of sex between two males as “dirty, filthy and excremental” and as a “condition” resulted in the postponing of the debate on the bill when it was first in front of the Committee two weeks ago.

Gerlein, who has since apologised somewhat reluctantly for his remarks, was among the five who voted against the proposal.

Also in opposition was Conservative Senator Eduardo Enriquez Maya, who criticised the Constitutional Court’s ruling that Congress must legislate on this matter by 2013, whilst Senator Edgar Espindola of the far-right National Integration Party added that the Court had “usurped the functions of Congress.”

The vote was the first of four tricky hurdles that the bill must pass before it becomes law, with the next stage being a plenary vote in the Senate before it goes in front of the House of Representatives.

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