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March 30, 2000 11:22pm
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Source: News Wire

Gay Colombian Widower Ruled Heir

A family court in Santafe de Bogota, Colombia ruled in early March that a gay man must be recognized as the sole heir of his partner of five years. "Cristian" had cared for "Dagoberto" throughout his struggle with AIDS without any assistance whatsoever from the dying man's family, even during the final month-long, round-the-clock clinic vigil. However immediately after Dagoberto's remains were cremated, the family took possession of the apartment the couple had shared and everything in it and told Cristian to leave. In a first for a Colombian family court, the judge overruled the claim of Dagoberto's father and nephews and awarded the entire estate to Cristian, who "had been the man's partner by default after having lived in a gay relationship that had lasted more than four years."

In a statement from his attorney German Humberto Ricon Perfetti, Cristian said simply, "My companion's wishes have been honored by these developments."

Perfetti is the gay lawyer who in 1998 filed Colombia's first same-gender marriage contract in the form of a notarized document called an "escritura publica" ("public scripture"). In September 1999 a sweeping lesbian and gay rights bill that included a form of registered partnership was withdrawn from consideration by a Senate commission without debate, but in October the Organization of American States' InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights heard the discrimination petition of a Colombian lesbian murder convict seeking the right to conjugal visits.

French-Scottish Couple "PACS Up"

France's recently enacted "Pacts of Civil Solidarity" (PACS) have brought gay and lesbian couples rights to other shores. According to a report in "The Scotsman," a French gay man and his Scottish partner went to the French consulate in Edinburgh on March 28 and registered their relationship under the law that provides most of the benefits of legal marriage to unwed pairs regardless of gender. The couple was not named and the consulate staff declined to disclose the details beyond saying that it was an administrative procedure without ceremony.

Scottish lesbian and gay activists were delighted at the news and hoped the PACS would set an example for their country. Their French counterparts, on the other hand, were less than satisfied with the law that ultimately prevailed after a decade of hard work; not denying that the financial, property and social welfare provisions are major victories, they were irate in particular at the required three-year waiting period before PACS couples can file a joint income tax return. Still unmarried partners rushed to sign up and of the more than 6,000 couples who registered between November 15 and December 31, 1999, the lobby group PACS Collective estimated that 75% of the registered couples in Paris are gays and lesbians, 40% in the Paris suburbs.

Cape Town Lesbian Couple Try to Register

Cape Town, South Africa lesbians Marinda Jordaan and Elsje Prinsloo were surprised to find that the third leg in what they're prepared to be a journey to the country's Constitutional Court was as easy and encouraging as it was. First Jordaan, 44, and Prinsloo, 29, celebrated their commitment with a formal wedding on March 11, then on March 16 they announced their intention to take a discrimination claim all the way to the highest court if they were denied legal recognition. The next step was for the couple to attempt to register their union.

A Cape Argus news team went with Jordaan and Prinsloo to the Cape Town Department of Home Affairs office on March 28 and followed them from person to person as they tried to register. Finally they reached identity documents division head Zelda Hansen, who, although a Home Affairs spokesperson had told SAPA at the time of the couple's press conference that they would be turned away, gave them a "provisional" date of May 29 for a legal marriage to be performed. Hansen said that the request would have to be approved by the head office in Pretoria, but that the women should not assume they would be denied.

Jordaan said, "I feel good, and was quite surprised that Mrs. Hansen made a provisional date."

South Africa's constitution was the first in the world to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, but gays and lesbians must still win legal recognition of their relationships step-by-step through the courts. The country's Law Commission has been working on an "issue document" on domestic partnerships since December 1998, and expects to publish it by the end of the year.

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