Recognition of same-sex unions in Costa Rica

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Legal status of same-sex unions
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Same-sex unions are not legally recognized in Costa Rica; however, the issue is being considered by the Legislative Assembly. The gay rights group The Diversity Movement has submitted a bill to the Legislative Assembly seeking to gain greater rights for same-sex couples. The bill however does not legalise same-sex marriage nor does it legalise gay adoption, which are considered much more controversial.[1]

Same-sex marriage[edit]

On May 23, 2006 the Supreme Court ruled against same-sex couples seeking to be legally married. In a 5-2 decision the court ruled that it was not required by the country's constitution to recognize same-sex marriage in family law.[2]

Civil unions[edit]

The issue of recognising legal unions between two members of the same sex has been debated off-and-on since 2007, with the debate resurfacing in May 2009 and creating strong controversy due to the nation's strong Catholic influence.[3] During 2008 a group opposed to same-sex unions in Costa Rica requested the Costa Rican electoral authority, Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones, TSE, to organize a referendum on the subject. Most organizations supporting same-sex civil unions in the country opposed such action. On October 1, 2008 the TSE authorized the group to start collecting the signatures (5% of registered voters) required by law to authorize the referendum. By July 2010 the required signatures were collected and the TSE started the process with the intent to hold the referendum on December 5, 2010.

In the meantime several organizations and individuals, including the Ombudsman Office of Costa Rica requested the Supreme Court to analyze the legality of the proposed referendum. On August 10, 2010, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the organization of such referendum. The court concluded that same-sex couples constitute a minority group with disadvantages which are currently subject to discrimination and that allowing a referendum regarding their rights will expose them to the risk of having non-gay majority limiting their rights and increasing their discrimination.

It is now the responsibility of Costa Rica's Congress to legislate a civil unions law, however, as of December 2012, opponents have continuously blocked debate on it.[4]

On July 2, 2013, the Legislative Assembly passed a measure that could legalize same-sex civil unions as part of a larger bill reforming the "Law of Young People". The passing of the bill was widely acknowledged to be a mistake on the part of legislators who were not aware of its implications; those voting for the bill included leglislators vocally opposed to gay rights. The mistake, however, did not impact the legality of the bill.[5] The bill changes article 22 of the "Law of Young People" to recognize: "The right to recognition without discrimination contrary to human dignity, social and economic effects of domestic partnerships that constitute publicly, notoriously unique and stable, with legal capacity for marriage for more than three years." [6]

On July 4, 2013, Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla signed the bill. A statement from the Minister of Communication said that it was not up to her to veto that bill and that the responsibility for interpreting it lay with legislators and judges.[7]

A gay couple has filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of Justice of Costa Rica asking that their union be recognized under the new law.[8] Gay rights activists reacting to the law said it needs to survive a constitutional challenge in court.[9][10] Some constitutional lawyers stated that same-sex couples will "still lack legal capacity" to formalize their unions, despite passage of the bill.[11]

On 3 December, 2014, Vice President Ana Helena Chacón confirmed that four gay union proposals would be deliberated on starting in January 2015. President Luis Guillermo Solís had said on 27 November that he supports a Coexistence initiative that would grant couples economic rights and not any of the union proposals that equate to marriage.[12]

In mid-March 2015, two Government proposals were submitted and studied. On 12 August 2015, the Government sent a partnership proposal to the Congress extraordinary sessions. The proposal seeks to make Article 242 of the Family Code's definition of cohabitation gender-neutral.[13]

Public opinion[edit]

A poll conducted between January 4 and 10, 2012, by La Nación showed that 55% of Costa Ricans support the statement "same-sex couples should have the same rights as heterosexual couples" while 41% were opposed. Support was higher in people aged 18–34 with 60% supporting equality.[14]

According to Pew Research Center survey, conducted between November 9 and December 19, 2013, 29% of Costa Ricans supported same-sex marriage, 61% were opposed.[15][16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "COSTA RICA: Congress to Study Bill on Homosexual Civil Unions - IPS". September 19, 2006. Retrieved October 28, 2010. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ (May 12, 2009). "Costa Rica, Nicaragua Daily News–The Tico Times, Same-sex union advocate slams Costa Rica church for stoking opposition". Retrieved October 28, 2010. 
  4. ^ Opponents Block Debate On Gay Unions In Costa Rica
  5. ^ [2]
  6. ^ "Costa Rica Accidentally Approves Same-Sex Unions". The Huffington Post. July 3, 2013. Retrieved July 5, 2013. 
  7. ^ [3]
  8. ^ "Costa Rica May Have Legalized Gay Civil Unions". Associated Press. 6 July 2013. Retrieved 6 July 2013. 
  9. ^ "Costa Rica Passes Legislation Permitting Gay Civil Unions -- By Accident". Fox News Latino. 5 July 2013. Retrieved 6 July 2013. 
  10. ^ "Costa Rican legislature accidentally passes gay marriage legalization". Tico Times. 3 July 2013. Retrieved 6 July 2013. 
  11. ^ Costa Rican lawyers claim ‘accidental’ bill does nothing for same-sex unions
  12. ^ Gobierno convocará proyecto de unión gay al Congreso en enero, confirma vicepresidenta
  13. ^ Buscan reformar Código de Familia para aprobar unión gay
  14. ^ Ávalos, Ángela (February 12, 2012). "55% a favor de igualdad en derechos". La Nación (in Spanish). Retrieved February 13, 2012. 
  15. ^ Religion in Latin America Chapter 5: Social Attitudes
  16. ^ Religion in Latin America Appendix A: Methodology