Colombia took a major step towards legalizing same-sex marriage Thursday when the constitutional court voted on the matter, in a decision hailed by the gay community.
Six of the nine court justices dismissed a petition that wanted to deny equal marriage rights for heterosexual and homosexual couples, paving the way for the mostly Catholic country to join Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil in Latin America in blazing a trail for gay marriage.
"The way is open for marriage between people of the same sex," said a source at the court, the highest in Colombia, after months of discussion.
"It's almost a fact that equal marriage will be approved, but it is not accurate to say that it is valid from today."
That will come when a court judge puts Thursday's decision in writing — which appears merely a formality.
A previous constitutional court ruling recognized same-sex couples as families and ordered Congress to pass a law that would afford gay couples the same rights as heterosexual married couples.
But when a 2013 deadline for lawmakers passed, gay couples could by default formalize their unions before notaries and judges, although it was a gray area and the court's language was vague.
Activists in the gay community gathered outside the court in Bogota's historic center to celebrate the announcement, waving flags.
In July 2010, Argentina became the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage, followed by Uruguay.
Brazil has de facto authorized same-sex marriage since May 2013.