Costa Rica Becomes First Country in Central America to Legalize LGBTQ Marriage

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Photo Credit IG @movilh

The tidal wave of bad news in which we seem to be immersed has come to a standstill for a moment in Costa Rica, where more than 1,140 homoparental families and thousands more will enjoy a legal framework recognized by the Constitution.

As of this Tuesday, May 26th, Costa Rica has recognized same-sex marriage, after the decision of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court on August 8th 2018 resolved two actions of alleged and non-existent unconstitutionality filed against the regulations of the Family Code.

Despite the social distancing measures established by the COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s LGBTQ community held a digital commemoration on Monday night with a live broadcast on state television, and broadcast on social networks, which reviewed the history of the struggle for rights and included the first marriage between two women at 00:01 AM on Tuesday.

“Same-sex couples have waited for many decades for their rights to be recognized on an equal footing,” Luis Salazar, the presidential commissioner for the LGBTQ population, told AFP.

“They pay the same taxes as any other citizen, they have the same obligations before the law, but sexual orientation became a discriminatory condition to deny them their rights,” the lawyer and activist explained.

Despite the rejection of the evangelical community, deeply rooted in the political fabric of Costa Rica, the Constitutional Chamber decided to adopt the provisions of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in its Advisory Opinion 24/17, which stated that the member states of the San José Pact should guarantee access for homosexual couples to existing figures, including marriage.

However, as the executive director of the Sí Acepto Costa Rica campaign, Gia Miranda, explained to the newspaper La Nación, “a legal change does not imply social change, but it is an enormous advance, a wonderful milestone in Costa Rica’s history.”

The Central American country has a strongly conservative tradition, between the influence of the Catholic Church and the patriarchal culture typical of the region, where the socioeconomic stratum and educational level directly affect the acceptance rate of the LGBTQ culture.

According to a report by the Ministry of Health in 2018, the Front for Equal Rights (FDI) received 32 reports of violence, of which 22 were verbal assaults, 5 physical assaults, 2 material damages, and 3 attempted assaults. And by 2016, approximately 9,179 people were living with HIV in the country, where 87.2 percent were men. Figures on the transgender population, and LGBTQ representation rates in general, are relatively unknown.

According to a survey by Unimer for the newspaper La Nación in 2012, 55 percent of Costa Ricans were in favor of homosexual couples having the same rights as heterosexuals, while 41 percent were against.

However, a survey by the University of Costa Rica’s Center for Research and Political Studies published in the weekly Universidad in 2013 showed that 60 percent of the Costa Rican population opposed equal rights for same-sex unions while 39 percent were in favor. Sixty percent of those who considered themselves Catholic opposed the measure, and 95 percent of those considered themselves Evangelicals.

Costa Rica has become the example to follow in the region, it’s true, but the celebration is just another sign of the determination to keep fighting.