Bogota (AFP) - Colombia's Constitutional Court has put stringent limits on adoption by gay couples, saying it would be allowed only if one partner is already the child's biological parent.
"Adoption will only be allowed when it deals with the biological child of the same sex partner," read Wednesday's decision, which disappointed gay rights groups hoping for more expansive adoption rights.
The court approved the measure by a narrow 5-4 vote, after a nine-hour debate.
The constitutional court ruled several months ago that a lesbian woman could adopt her long-time partner's daughter, presaging Wednesday's decision, which applies to all gay couples in Colombia.
In the case last August, the court allowed a woman to adopt the biological daughter of her longtime female partner, overruling Colombia's Family Welfare bureau, which had denied her adoption petition.
Elizabeth Castillo, leader of an organization representing lesbian mothers in Colombia, saw the decision as only a minor setback en route to full adoption rights for gays.
"The quest for equality will not go backwards," she declared.
Outside the court, however, a number of protesters chanted that same sex parents "are not the same, are not equal," insisting that children can only thrive when raised by a mother and a father.
Colombia's Roman Catholic Church also said it was "not entirely in agreement," with the ruling, which came after it lobbied for months for the court to impose a complete ban on gay adoption.
Colombia's Constitutional Court has slowly expanded the list of rights accorded to homosexual couples in this predominantly Catholic and socially conservative country in recent years.
In 2007, it recognized de facto unions for gay couples and granted them joint health insurance coverage.
In 2008, it granted them shared pension rights, and in 2009 it ruled they were also entitled to inheritance rights.