Recognition of same-sex unions in Costa Rica

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Legal status of same-sex unions
  1. Marriages performed in some municipalities and recognized by the state
  2. For some purposes only
  3. When performed in Mexican states that have legalized same-sex marriage
  4. When performed in the Netherlands proper

* Not yet in effect

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Same-sex unions are not legally recognized in Costa Rica. Bills allowing for either civil unions or same-sex marriage are being considered by the Legislative Assembly. Additionally, multiple same-sex couples in the country have filed lawsuits in order to legalize civil unions or marriage.

Civil unions[edit]

Homosexuality laws in Central America and the Caribbean Islands.
  Same-sex marriage
  Other type of partnership
  Unregistered cohabitation
  Foreign same-sex marriages recognized
  No recognition of same-sex couples
  Constitution limits marriage to opposite-sex couples
  Same-sex sexual activity illegal but not enforced
  Same-sex sexual activity illegal only for males
  Same-sex sexual activity illegal for males and females

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.[1]

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 a 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 a 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.[2]

On July 2, 2013, the Legislative Assembly unanimously 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 legislators vocally opposed to LGBT rights. The mistake, however, did not impact the legality of the bill. 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." The bill also changes the country's Family Code to allow couples who have been living together for three or more years to be recognized as having a common-law marriage, which would grant them the benefits of legal partners such as alimony.[3] The final approved version of the bill didn't include marriage as being between members of the opposite-sex.[4] On July 4, 2013, Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla signed the bill into law. 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.[5]

In July 2013, a same-sex couple filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of Justice of Costa Rica asking that their union be recognized under the new law. Gay rights activists reacting to the law said it needs to survive a constitutional challenge in court.[6][7] Some constitutional lawyers stated that same-sex couples will "still lack legal capacity" to formalize their unions, despite passage of the bill.[8]

On December 3, 2014, Vice President Ana Helena Chacón confirmed that four same-sex union proposals would be deliberated on starting in January 2015. President Luis Guillermo Solís said on November 27 that he supports a coexistence initiative that would grant couples economic rights and not any of the union proposals that equate to marriage.[9] In mid-March 2015, two government proposals were submitted and studied. On August 12, 2015, the Government sent a partnership proposal to the Legislative Assembly extraordinary sessions. The proposal seeks to make Article 242 of the Family Code's definition of cohabitation gender-neutral.[10]

In June 2015, a Costa Rican judge granted a common-law marriage to a same-sex couple, Gerald Castro and Cristian Zamora, basing his ruling on the July 2013 legislation.[11]

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.[12]

On March 19, 2015, a bill to legalize same-sex marriage was introduced to the Legislative Assembly by Deputy Ligia Elena Fallas Rodríguez from the Broad Front.[13] On December 10, 2015, the organization Front for Equal Rights (Frente Por los Derechos Igualitarios) and a group of deputies from the Citizens' Action Party, the National Liberation Party and the Broad Front presented another bill.[14][15][16]

On February 10, 2016, the Supreme Court of Costa Rica announced it would hear a case seeking to legalize same-sex marriage in the country and declare the same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional.[17]

In December 2016, the Citizen's Action Party (PAC) officially announced its support of same-sex marriage. Its Equal Marriage project calls for same-sex couples to receive the same rights as opposite-sex couples, including adoption.[18] A few days later, President, and member of PAC, Luis Guillermo Solís announced his opposition to same-sex marriage.[19] He did, however, restate his commitment to approving a law of coexistence for same-sex couples.

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.[20]

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.[21][22]

A poll carried out in August 2016 by the Centro de Investigación y Estudios Políticos (CIEP) revealed that 49% of Costa Ricans oppose the legal recognition of same-sex couples, while 45% support it. 6% were unsure.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Costa Rica, Nicaragua Daily News–The Tico Times, Same-sex union advocate slams Costa Rica church for stoking opposition". May 12, 2009. Retrieved October 28, 2010. 
  2. ^ Opponents Block Debate On Gay Unions In Costa Rica
  3. ^ Costa Rica could be the first Central American country to allow gay civil unions—by accident
  4. ^ "Costa Rica Accidentally Approves Same-Sex Unions". The Huffington Post. July 3, 2013. Retrieved July 5, 2013. 
  5. ^ (Spanish) Presidenta ya firmó ley que podría legalizar derechos a homosexuales
  6. ^ "Costa Rica Passes Legislation Permitting Gay Civil Unions -- By Accident". Fox News Latino. 5 July 2013. Retrieved 6 July 2013. 
  7. ^ "Costa Rican legislature accidentally passes gay marriage legalization". Tico Times. 3 July 2013. Retrieved 6 July 2013. 
  8. ^ Costa Rican lawyers claim ‘accidental’ bill does nothing for same-sex unions
  9. ^ Gobierno convocará proyecto de unión gay al Congreso en enero, confirma vicepresidenta
  10. ^ Buscan reformar Código de Familia para aprobar unión gay
  11. ^ Costa Rica Recognizes First Gay Common-Law Marriage With Central America's First Legally Recognized Same-Sex Relationship
  12. ^ High Court Rules against Same-Sex Marriage
  13. ^ (Spanish) Proyecto de ley N.°19.508
  14. ^ (Spanish) Proyecto de organizaciones sociales para Matrimonio Igualitario ya está en la Asamblea Legislativa
  15. ^ (Spanish) 12 Diputados respaldan proyecto de ley para permitir matrimonio gay
  16. ^ (Spanish) Proyecto de Ley Matrimonio Igualitario by Frente Por los Derechos Igualitarios
  17. ^ (Spanish) Sala IV admite para estudio 2 recursos de inconstitucionalidad contra prohibición de matrimonio gay
  18. ^ (Spanish) Matrimonio igualitario quiebra a la fracción legislativa del PAC
  19. ^ (Spanish) Presidente de Costa Rica no apoya matrimonio igualitario
  20. ^ Ávalos, Ángela (February 12, 2012). "55% a favor de igualdad en derechos". La Nación (in Spanish). Retrieved February 13, 2012. 
  21. ^ Religion in Latin America Chapter 5: Social Attitudes
  22. ^ Religion in Latin America Appendix A: Methodology
  23. ^ (Spanish) Se mantienen actitudes conservadoras en Costa Rica sobre matrimonio igualitario y Estado laico