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Same-sex marriage will be legal in Costa Rica on May 26. Some legislators hope to delay it

May 13, 2020

In the midst of a world that has been focused on containing a pandemic, Costa Rica rapidly approaches a historic milestone.

On May 26, same-sex couples can legally marry in Costa Rica. No specific legislation will be passed that day; instead, articles of the country’s family code that explicitly prevent same-sex marriage will be repealed.

The date is years in the making. In January 2018, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that all of its signatory countries must allow same-sex marriage. The court’s verdict is binding for many Latin American states, including Costa Rica.

“In democratic societies, there should exist mutually peaceful coexistence between the secular and the religious,” with neither interfering with the other, the court said at the time.

In August 2018, Costa Rica’s Supreme Court of Justice ruled that the prohibition of same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. It gave the Legislative Assembly 18 months to overturn it, or the ban would be overturned by default.

Those 18 months — and Costa Rica’s ban on same-sex marriage — expire May 26, 2020.

Legislators make dubious claim to delay gay marriage

Two-dozen legislators this week asked that the May 26 deadline to allow same-sex marriage “be extended to one that is reasonable … a minimum of 18 months counted after the effects of the pandemic provoked by COVID-19.”

Their motion argued that the Legislative Assembly has been too focused on other projects — including the 2018 fiscal reform and the ongoing coronavirus crisis — to adequately prepare for the new legality.

Regardless of the Legislative Assembly’s decision, the separation of powers between the Legislative Assembly and the Supreme Court of Justice may make the legislators’ motion irrelevant, according to Fabián Volio, a constitutional lawyer, who spoke with La República on the subject.

Similarly, the Ombudsman’s Office issued a statement reminding legislators that Costa Rica is “obligated” to allow same-sex marriage.

“Same-sex marriage is an unquestionable reality,” the Ombudsman’s Office said. “The legal discussion is a thing of the past; today Costa Rica is obligated to accomplish it.

“Any action to oppose it is in violation of human rights and is not compliant with the Inter-American Court and the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV).”

President Carlos Alvarado, whose support for same-sex marriage played a significant role in his election, alluded to the sudden controversy — which led two lawmakers to come to blows — in a Twitter post Tuesday night.

“I do not hide that today I feel sadness,” President Alvarado said. “We need more than ever to move forward in union and not fuel divisions. We must protect people’s health, public finances, and human rights.”

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