Bolivia has recognised a same-sex civil union for the first time after a gay couple took their battle for recognition to the courts.
Same-sex marriage is not yet legal in Bolivia, and the country’s constitution defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. Meanwhile, efforts to legalise civil partnerships have repeatedly stalled.
Aruquipa and Montaño’s legal battle kicked off in 2018 when the Bolivian civil registry refused to recognise their union, arguing that the country did not allow same-sex marriages.
Bolivia’s constitutional court ruled in July that the civil registry must recognise their relationship as a free union. The court also ruled that the country’s constitution must be interpreted in a way that lines up with human rights and equality standards.
Referencing a 2017 opinion published by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the constitutional court ruled that all rights enjoyed by opposite-sex couples should be given to same-sex couples.
Gay couple want to ‘transform the law’ for LGBT+ people in Bolivia.
Five months after the court ruling, Aruquipa and Montaño finally had their relationship legally recognised on Friday.
“It is an initial step, but what inspires us is [the goal] of transforming the law,” Aruquipa said at a press conference.
Following the court’s ruling in July, José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch, said: “Gay and lesbian couples are an integral part of Bolivia’s social fabric and deserve to be recognised by the state and its institutions.
“All civil registries in Bolivia should stop treating them like second class citizens and start recognising their unions.”
The couple were left heartbroken when Bolivia’s civil registry refused to proceed with their application for a free union in 2018, telling them that there was no procedure in place allowing same-sex couples to have their relationships legally recognised.
Aruquipa and Montaño filed administrative appeals in which they cited international human rights standards as well as constitutional non-discrimination principles – however, in September 2019, the registry once again rejected their request.
The case eventually went to the constitutional court, which found that the civil registry had breached the couple’s due process rights as it failed to consider the country’s international legal obligations.