People attend a demonstration to support the passage of the same-sex marriage law at Bolivar square in Bogota

Colombian lawmakers scorned a proposed law to allow same-sex marriage, bucking a growing regional trend. The polarising bill, which sparked a bruising parliamentary battle, was rejected by 51 to 17 votes.

“Those who vote against this project … would have voted in favour of slavery,” said an irate Armando Benedetti, the senator who drafted the bill.

Another senator in favour of passing the legislation, Luis Carlos Avellaneda, said, “Marriage is a fundamental right … to all Colombians without discrimination.”

Conservative lawmaker Carlos Chavarro argued that being an anathema to many in a predominantly Roman Catholic country, “marriage … implies a union between a man and a woman and the idea of procreating”.

“A minority should not impose legislation because the Colombian state must legislate for the majority, and the majority want us to preserve the nuclear family,” he added.

Outside of Congress, in Colombia’s central square, marchers holding the rainbow pride flag, faced off against protesters carrying placards emblazoned with the slogan, “Mother and father are the base of the family.”

In 2011, Colombia’s Constitutional Court ruled that Congress must pass legislation within two years in order to extend the same benefits heterosexuals receive through marriage to same-sex couples. As lawmakers now failed to pass legislation, gays and lesbians will have to register their unions in court.

Countries and states around Latin America have begun to allow same-sex marriage. It is legal in Mexico City, some populous Brazilian states such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, and nationwide in Argentina – where more than 1,000 couples have married since the law passed in July 2010.

This month, Uruguayan lawmakers passed legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry.