Barreras canceled the debate because of what he called “unacceptable behavior” on the part of LGBT activists protesting a forum against the marriage bill on Thursday.
The forum was interrupted by LGBT activists, at least one of whom was forcibly removed. But the activists and conservative leaders who were taking part in the forum—including two senators, Attorney General Alejandro Ordóñez, and religious leaders—disagree on who was the aggressor.
LGBT activists, including Bogotá city Councilwoman Angelica Lozano, say that things began to get out of hand when their protest signs were removed. Then people who appeared to be security guards for two of the senators on the panel, Edgar Espínola Niño and Claudia Wilches Sarmiento, attacked the protestors. At least one person, they claim, called the protestors “maricas,” which translates to “faggots.”
But conservative Bogotá city Councilwoman Clara Lucía Sandoval claimed that the “attacks” never took place. The “aggression,” she said, came from LGBT activists who interrupted the event by shouting. She alleged they manufactured a confrontation in order to embarrass opponents of the marriage bill.
A YouTube video shows activist Daniel Sastoque Coronado shouting, “We have rights!” and decrying the exclusion of LGBT people from the panel. He then turns to denounce someone for calling him “marica” before he is removed.
Sastoque had brought a charge against Attorney General Ordóñez before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights in 2012 claiming he had been subject to a campaign of harassment and ultimately dismissed from his job as a human rights officer because he was promoting LGBT rights.
In canceling the debate, senate president Barreras clearly placed blame on the LGBT activists.
“Hooligans will not be permitted in Congress because it is the home of democracy,” he said in remarks published by El Espectador. “I have decided to suspend the discussion of this debate until we meet with the leaders of this important LGBTI community and define with them the rules for participation with full guarantees, but with deep respect for those who think differently.”
He later announced that a meeting has been scheduled with LGBT activists for 3 p.m. Monday.
The bill’s sponsor, Senator Armando Benedetti, shot back via Twitter, “If the debate on #equalmarriage is suspended, it is by order by some prosecutor [like the attorney general], cardinal, or other boss of the Senate.”
The Colombian congress is under order from the Constitutional Court to pass a bill guaranteeing full rights for same-sex couples by June 20. If it fails to act by that date, couples will be able to solemnize their unions in front of a notary, but more lawsuits are expected about whether these partnerships will be called “marriages.”