A progressive turn-around

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The 26th May is representative of Costa Rica finally legalising same-sex marriages. They are the first country in Central America to do so and this monumental day did not come easily. 

Arguably, this journey began back in 2016 when Costa Rica asked the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to analyse and investigate the right to privacy, the right to a name and the right to equal protection under the American Convention on Human rights. Following their decision on this, in 2017, the Court decided to rule that all rights applicable to familial relationship of heterosexuals should apply to homosexuals as well. It was due to this ruling, that in 2018, the Costa Rican constitutional court ruled in favour of equal marriages, aligning itself with the Inter-American Court. It ruled that a ban on same-sex marriages was fundamentally unconstitutional and set the court-ordered deadline, for the parliament to legislate or deal with the ban being overturned, to be on the 26th May 2020. It was thus that the 26th May marked the day that the infamous Family Code became null and same-sex marriages were legalised. 

Costa Rica’s is the first Central American country to legalise same-sex marriage

After the initial triumph of the Court’s decision, in the 2018 presidential race, same-sex marriage divided voters, as a right-wing evangelist – who was also a presidential candidate – vowed to ignore the aforementioned Inter-American Court decision. He ultimately lost the election, but not before he ignited a polarized view on same-sex couples and marriages. It caused unrest in Costa Rican society, and law officials even became physical in certain confrontations surrounding the legislative motion to halt the constitutional court’s ruling in 2018. 

However, since then, the successful and current President Carlos Alvarado Queseda stands with a view of equality and respect towards homosexuality and the right to marriage. He exclaimed on twitter, just as the ruling came into effect, that, “Empathy and love should from now on be the guiding principles which will allow us to move forward”. Additionally, his presidential campaign included the explicit notion of legalising same-sex marriage. This same election in 2018 also saw the first openly gay congressman be successful in his position. This advance in visibility and openness of homosexuality, directly respected by the Costa Rican government highlights its importance in leading to the actual legalisation of same-sex marriage in 2020. 

So, now Costa Rica joins 28 other countries around the world in order to provide the opportunity of same-sex marriage, while simultaneously improving marriage equality in Latin America, joining other countries such as Argentina, Brazil and Columbia. Native Costa Rican, Victor Madrigal Borloz, the UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, states that it is “an extraordinary moment of celebration and gratitude to the work of so many activists, and of quiet reflection of the loves of those who lived without seeing this moment.”. 

Moreover, Costa Rica can be seen as an inspiration in the advancement and celebration of same-sex marriages. This is because Ecuador’s constitutional court quickly followed suit. They ruled in favour of marriage equality in 2019, in accordance with the Inter-American Court. This movement is one that defines an incredible wave of advancement in Latin America. An amazing six countries now stand for same-sex and proudly show its legal nature in their constitutions. 

Costa Rica’s success in being the first Central American country to legalise same-sex marriage, will go down in history and hopefully many other countries will follow suit.

Illustration: Tommy Hämäläinen

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