Same-sex marriage in Costa Rica
Same-sex marriage is expected to become legal in Costa Rica, following a 9 January 2018 ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, according to which, the American Convention on Human Rights signatory countries are required to allow it. The government announced that it will abide the ruling.
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.
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.
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. The final approved version of the bill didn't include marriage as being between members of the opposite-sex. 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.
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. Some constitutional lawyers stated that same-sex couples will "still lack legal capacity" to formalize their unions, despite passage of the bill.
On December 3, 2014, Vice President Ana Helena Chacón Echeverría confirmed that four same-sex union proposals would be debated 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. 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.
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.
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.
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. 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. The bill was submitted to the Assembly on January 28, 2016.
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.
In December 2016, the Citizens' 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. A few days later, President Luis Guillermo Solís, a member of PAC, announced his personal opposition to same-sex marriage. He did, however, restate his commitment to approving a law of coexistence for same-sex couples.
In November 2017, Costa Rica held a conference that focused on the marital rights of same-sex couples across Latin America. Speaking at the conference, Vice President Ana Helena Chacón Echeverría, one of Costa Rica's two vice presidents, announced her support for same-sex marriage.
Recognition of marriages performed abroad
In April 2017, a Costa Rican citizen and a Mexican citizen who had previously wed in Mexico asked the Costa Rican Embassy in Mexico City to recognize their same-sex marriage. However, the Costa Rican Civil Registry denied their request, based on the country's same-sex marriage ban. In May, the couple appealed the Civil Registry's decision, but it again rejected their request in June. The couple has appealed to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE). They announced that, should the TSE rule against them, they would appeal to the Supreme Court and even to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling
On 9 January 2018, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that countries which are signatories to the American Convention on Human Rights are required to allow same-sex couples to marry. The ruling states that:
The State must recognize and guarantee all rights derived from a family bond between persons of the same sex in accordance with the provisions of Articles 11.2 and 17.1 of the American Convention. (...) in accordance with articles 1.1, 2, 11.2, 17 and 24 of the American Convention, it is necessary to guarantee access to all the existing figures in domestic legal systems, including the right to marry. (..) To ensure the protection of all the rights of families formed by same-sex couples, without discrimination with respect to those that are constituted by heterosexual couples.
The Costa Rican government, which moved directly to the IACHR for an official pronouncement, announced that it will abide by the resolution. The Foreign Ministry notified the Judiciary, the Supreme Electoral Court (responsible for the Civil Registry) and the Legislative Assembly about the ruling on 12 January. The first same-sex couples were scheduled to get married on 20 January. However, on 18 January, the Superior Council of Notaries stated that the notaries cannot perform same-sex marriages until the provision in the Family Code prohibiting them is changed by the parliament or struck down by the Supreme Court. The couple announced their intention to challenge the council's decision in the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court. The Minister of Justice Marco Feoli reiterated the government's position that the IACHR ruling is binding on Costa Rica.
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.
A poll carried out in August 2016 by the Centro de Investigación y Estudios Políticos (CIEP) indicated that 49% of Costa Ricans opposed the legal recognition of same-sex marriage, while 45% supported it. 6% were unsure.
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- Costa Rica could be the first Central American country to allow gay civil unions—by accident
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- (in Spanish) Presidenta ya firmó ley que podría legalizar derechos a homosexuales
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- High Court Rules against Same-Sex Marriage
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- Religion in Latin America Chapter 5: Social Attitudes
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- (in Spanish) Se mantienen actitudes conservadoras en Costa Rica sobre matrimonio igualitario y Estado laico