The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) has given the Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE) three days to address a challenge relating to a referendum on same-sex civil unions.
The challenge was filed by longtime civil servant, Esteban Quirós, who questioned the validity of addressing human rights issues enshrined in international treaties in a referendum. He said that Costa Rica is bound by international conventions that protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation. In Costa Rica, the provisions of international treaties supercede all national laws except the Constitution.
“It would be impossible to put a human rights issue to a vote,” Quirós said, explaining that it would violate the rights homosexuals have according to “different international instruments developed by international organizations.”
The petition for holding the referendum was submitted by the Citizen’s Observatory, a private organization that claims to have collected the 136,750 signatures necessary to put the issue of gay unions to a popular vote.
Gay rights activists are lobbying against a referendum they fear will be a setback to their cause. Because Costa Rica is a strongly Catholic country, they are not optimistic that a vote on gay marriage will be in their favor.
This is the second challenge to the referendum, which would likely be held on Dec. 5 barring a negative ruling by the TSE or the courts. The first, which was dismissed earlier this week, was filed by the Ombudswoman’s Office on the grounds that the right of homosexual couples to form civil unions is “fundamental,” and that such rights are not an appropriate subject for a popular vote (TT, June 25).