Colombia legally recognises union between three men, a possible world first
Trio decided to seek legal status for their relationship after a fourth partner died of cancer
When the officiant at the ceremony says “you may now kiss the groom”, Victor Hugo Prada will have to choose which of the two men standing with him he’ll kiss first: Manuel or Alejandro.
The ceremony, planned for Colombia in the coming months, will celebrate the first legalised union of three men in the country – and possibly the world.
“We want to make what’s intimate, public,” says Prada, at 23 the youngest of the three. “We have no reason to hide it. We are just helping people realise that there are different types of love and different types of family.”
When a public notary in Medellín signed the paperwork last month formalising the union between Prada, Manuel Bermudez and Alejandro Rodriguez, local newspapers declared it the first three-way gay marriage.
In a legal sense however, theirs is not a marriage, according to Germán Rincon-Perfetti, the lawyer who drew up the document. “By Colombian law a marriage is between two people, so we had to come up with a new word: a special patrimonial union.”
The document states that the three of them constitute a family and are each others’ legal partners. “We are not three friends living together. We are a family, a trieja,” says Prada, using the Spanish version of the term “throuple”, which indicates a stable relationship between three individuals. “We were already a family before this. The paperwork just formalised it.”
Bermudez and Rodriguez have been together for 18 years and were the first gay male couple in Colombia to receive formal legal recognition of their partnership in 2000, 16 years before the country’s constitutional court legalised gay marriage. “Back then the issue wasn’t even debated,” says Manuel. During eight of those years they had a three-way relationship that included Alex Esneider Zabala. Four years ago, Prada joined the polyamorous relationship.
The four of them had planned a ceremony to celebrate their union. But when Zabala died three years ago after being diagnosed with stomach cancer, Prada, Bermudez and Rodriguez realised that a ceremony was not enough. “As much as we considered ourselves a family, we had to fight hard to be recognised as Alex’s partners when he died,” says Bermudez.
The surviving three sought to formalise their relationship through legal means. Rincon-Perfetti, who drew up the paperwork 17 years ago to seal Bermudez and Rodriguez’s union, offered to help. He knows of no other case in the world where a polyamorous relationship between three men has been granted legal recognition.
“There are a lot of throuples but it is completely clandestine,” says Rincón-Perfetti. He said he expects other polyamorous partnerships to seek the same legal status after the media attention on Prada, Bermudez and Rodriguez’s union.
Colombia’s constitutional court approved marriage equality in 2016, and in 2015 granted same-sex couples the same adoption rights as heterosexuals.
But such moves have prompted a backlash from conservatives, who this year attempted to trigger a referendum to overturn the adoption ruling. Calls have been made for a disciplinary investigation into the Medellín notary who legalised the union.
But the three men and their lawyer say their union cannot be undone.
Bermudez and Rodriguez have celebrated their 18-year bilateral partnership in several different ceremonies over the years. But for Prada, the three-way ceremony will be his first and he wants it to be special.
He has asked a female priest to officiate the spiritual part of the ceremony and envisions three dance troupes – representing water, earth and fire – giving each of the grooms away. A fourth – symbolising air – will represent Zabala, the deceased partner.