By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

BOGOTA, January 30, 2009 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Supreme Court of Colombia has ruled that homosexual couples are entitled a broad array of rights normally granted to heterosexual couples under the law.

Under the ruling, announced on Wednesday, homosexual couples will receive equal status with heterosexual couples under 42 different provisions of the law, ranging from military benefits to naturalization of a foreign partner. Homosexuals will also be excused from testifying against their sex partners.

However, the Court, in an apparent response to the strong pro-family values of Colombian society, did not grant the right to adopt children. It also refused to allow homosexual relationships to be called a "marriage." 

The ruling arrives after years of refusal by the Colombian Congress to grant special rights to the partners of homosexuals, a sentiment that is echoed with almost perfect unanimity throughout the strongly Catholic and pro-family Latin America.

The decision of the Court, however, is being strongly denounced by pro-family legislators as a case of judicial activism. The President of Columbia should consider "closing the Congress because there are now nine people who are taking on the faculties and carrying out the functions of the 200 who were selected by the people," said ex-congressman Victor Velasquez in a press conference.

He also reportedly called on the leaders of the Catholic Church to protest against this "attack against the morals of the country."

Velasquez also declared his intention to seek a declaration of nullity on the grounds that the Court is exceeding its constitutional authority.

Hernando Salazar, an editorialist for BBC World, said that the decision of the court is "paradoxical" because the "the Congress has rejected various bills in favor of same-sex couples" while "the judicial branch has nullified legal measures that it considers to be in violation of the right to equality for those unions."

He also stated that "other experts consulted by BBC World, who requested anonymity, believe that the decisions of the Constitutional Court are a response to the ‘homophobia and the machismo that is observed in the Congress of the Republic.’"

"The Court has recognized a social reality with extreme prudence and moderation," said Excobar Gil, one of the Court’s nine justices.  "It has expanded rights in situations similar to those of heterosexual couples without affecting basic values of our culture and social morality, and protecting the institution of the family."

The verdict, which came in response to a lawsuit filed by homosexual rights advocates, follows a 2007 ruling that granted health benefits and pensions to the partners of homosexuals.