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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 February 2007, 11:27 GMT
Rights for Colombia gay couples
Marcela Sanchez, head of Colombia Diversa
Campaigner Marcela Sanchez said it was 'a great step'
Homosexual couples in Colombia should have the same property rights as their heterosexual counterparts, the nation's Constitutional Court has ruled.

The decision applies to those who have been living together for two years.

A gay rights group, which had sought the clarification from the court, said at least 100,000 couples would benefit.

A court source said it did not mean same-sex civil unions - which are part of a bill currently being debated in Congress - had been approved.

'Great step'

The court said the expression "men and women" used in a 1990 law which gives property rights to de-facto couples was unconstitutional.

The head of gay rights group Colombia Diversa, Marcela Sanchez, described the ruling as "a great step".

Until now, same-sex couples who wanted to share their property had had to create commercial partnerships to guarantee that in the case of death of one of the partners the shared possessions would go to the surviving one, she said.

"Laws are not enough, an important cultural shift is needed... for discrimination to end," Ms Sanchez added.

Wednesday's ruling was condemned by some lay Catholic groups, which described it as "going against the family and matrimony".

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