Colombia's constitutional court opened the door Wednesday for same-sex couples to legally adopt children in the conservative South American nation.
In the 6-2 ruling, the court said adoption agencies can't discriminate against gay, lesbian and transsexual couples during an adoption process.
Colombia's Roman Catholic Church immediately denounced the decision as violating the rights of children and going against the wishes of the majority of Colombians who polls say overwhelmingly reject giving gays the same rights to marriage and adoption as heterosexual couples.
"Our protest is emphatic," Monsignor Juan Vicente Cordoba, a church spokesman, told RCN TV, reiterating the church's demand that the issue be decided by a plebiscite.
"We have the right so that the voice of the majority of Colombians is heard. The court is there to take care of the laws, not change them," he said.
Supporters of the decision say it could help streamline the adoption of some 10,000 children in Colombia under the protection of welfare agencies.
President Juan Manuel Santos' government argued in favor of the plaintiffs in the landmark case. The high court paved the way for Wednesday's decision last year when it authorized adoption rights for gay couples in which one member is a biological parent.
With Wednesday's decision, Colombia joins only a handful of nations in Latin America, including Uruguay and Argentina, in allowing same-sex couples to adopt. It also comes on the heels of a number of gay-friendly rulings, including one reaffirming the rights of same-sex couples to form civil unions with the same inheritance and legal rights as married couples. Still pending is a proposal to allow same-sex couples the right to wed.
The Associated Press