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Costa Rica files criminal complaint against same-sex couple who married due to clerical error

November 9, 2015

The director of Costa Rica’s Civil Registry has filed a criminal complaint alleging unlawful marriage against two women who were wed here in July because the registry mistakenly had listed one of them as a man. A complaint also was filed against the couple’s public notary, the registry official announced on Monday.

“We believe that the people [involved in the case] were aware that marriage between people of the same sex warrants a complaint to be filed,” Civil Registry Director Luis Bolaños said. “Articles of [Costa Rica’s] Penal Code could have been violated.”

Laura Florez-Estrada and Jazmín Elizondo were married on July 25 by notary Marco Castillo, who inscribed the act in the Civil Registry.

Florez-Estrada, 28, was born in Peru, has Spanish nationality and has lived in Costa Rica for six years. She is the sister of José María Villalta, a former lawmaker and 2014 presidential candidate for the Broad Front Party. Elizondo, 24, is a Costa Rican, and due to a clerical error has been listed her entire life in the Civil Registry as a man. Castillo heads the pro-LGBT rights group Movimiento Diversidad.

Gay rights Costa Rica José María Villalta
Former presidential candidate José María Villalta was a parade marshal for Costa Rica's Diversity March in 2014. Lindsay Fendt/The Tico Times

Due to the registry error, it was the first time in Costa Rica that a same-sex marriage was formally acknowledged by the government. In a separate case, a judge had previously legally acknowledged a same-sex civil union between two men based on a youth law that prohibits discrimination.

According to Bolaños, Costa Rica’s Criminal Code calls for a prison sentence of up to six years for those convicted of unlawful marriage. He said he would ask the Government Attorney’s Office to request a judge to annul the marriage. He added that Elizondo would be notified on Monday that the Civil Registry error that lists her as a man would be corrected.

The couple, however, has vowed to legally fight those actions in order to set a legal precedent for same-sex couples in Costa Rica.

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