Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has endorsed allowing gay couples to marry.

The 62-year-old Santos, in office since 2010, is campaigning to keep his job.

“Marriage between homosexuals to me is perfectly acceptable and what’s more I am defending unions that exist between two people of the same sex with the rights and all of the same privileges that this union should receive,” said Santos during a May 20 Google hangout hosted by Colombian daily El Tiempo. “If these unions are called marriage or not is secondary to me. For me it is important that they have their rights.”

In a candidate questionnaire published May 15 by the Colombian LGBT rights advocacy group Colombia Diversa, Santos said he supports a 2011 ruling recognizing the relationships of gay and lesbian couples.

“This government – and is also my personal conviction – supports the decisions of the Constitutional Court in terms of inheritance rights and recognition of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people,” he said. “We are and will be respectful of the judicial rulings and the independence of the branches of public power.”

While the court ruled in favor of gay couples seeking the right to marry, it left implementation up to lawmakers, giving them 2 years to approve legislation. However, Colombian lawmakers failed to act before the court's June, 2013 deadline.

Citing the ruling's stipulation that if lawmakers do not meet the deadline gay couples can “go to a notary and with the same solemnity of a heterosexual marriage enter a union similar to one between a heterosexual couple,” a handful of couples were allowed to marry. Inspector General Alejandro Ordonez Maldonado has sued to invalidate the unions.

Santos faces Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, a former finance minister, in a June 15 runoff. Zuluaga told Colombia Diversa that he does not support “marriage between partners of the same sex, nor adoption,” but agrees with “a legal framework that respects inheritance rights, civil rights and social security for same-sex partners.”