efe-epaPanama City

Panama's Catholic bishops conference and the Protestant Evangelical Alliance on Tuesday appealed to believers to form a "common front" against same-sex marriage.

"The family is one of the important points that should unite all Panamanians. Lately, we have been led to believe that defending the traditional family is an act of discrimination, but the truth is that we are neither homophobes nor bigots," Archbishop Jose Domingo Ulloa said.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights' recent finding that countries are obligated to guarantee the right of same-sex couples to marry "is not binding," the Catholic prelate told a press conference in Panama City.

The opinion was issued Jan. 9 in response to a request from Costa Rica seeking clarification of the rights of LGBT people.

Ulloa accused the court of seeking to impose "an ideology that goes against human nature."

Speaking for the Evangelical Alliance, Leovaldo Zurita said that same-sex marriage was not a priority for Panamanian society, which is instead eager for action to address violence and inequality.

Two weeks ago, Panama's vice president and foreign minister, Isabel De Saint Malo, suggested that the opinion could help the government "advance an agenda of equality and non-discrimination."

Social conservatives said De Saint Malo was trying to pressure the Panamanian Supreme Court into accepting a request by a gay couple married in the United States to validate their union in Panama.

Same-sex marriage is legal in a score of countries, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, the United States, Mexico and Uruguay.

In an unprecedented act, first lady Lorena Castillo de Varela and other government officials joined a march last July in favor of LGBT rights.