A top court in Costa Rica paved the way for the recognition of same-sex unions this week by overturning the country’s decades-old marriage equality ban.
On Wednesday night, its Supreme Court ruled that the Costa Rica Family Code is “unconstitutional and discriminatory,” as the BBC originally reported. “A marriage is legally impossible… between persons of the same sex,” according to Article 14, Section 6 of the 1974 law.
But Magistrate Fernando Castillo clarified in a Wednesday press conference that the Costa Rica Supreme Court’s ruling does not directly strike down the Latin American country’s prohibition on same-sex marriages. It’s up to the Legislative Assembly to act.
Lawmakers will have 18 months to pass legislation legalizing marriage equality. If a bill is not enacted during that time, same-sex marriages will become legal.
Enrique Sanchez, an openly gay representative in the Citizen Action Party, is not hopeful that the lawmaking body will rise to the occasion. Fourteen of the 57 seats in the Legislative Assembly are controlled by evangelicals vehemently opposed to the national recognition of LGBTQ relationships.
Sanchez claimed a bill is “unlikely” given widespread religious opposition.
“What I see happening is that [the gay-marriage ban] will simply be declared unconstitutional in 18 months’ time,” he told the Agence France Presse.
The Supreme Court’s verdict was a response to a January ruling from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR), which claimed that all countries under its jurisdiction should move to recognize same-sex marriages. This decision affected more than 20 nations which have yet to legalize marriage equality, including Bolivia, Chile, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, and Peru.
Both Bolivia and Paraguay have passed laws explicitly banning LGBTQ couples from tying the knot.
Despite its 44-year-old law prohibiting marriage equality, the Costa Rican government has long been on the front lines of pushing for the full recognition of same-sex unions. Former President Luis Guillermo Solis requested the IACHR take up the issue, while current leader Carlos Alvarado hailed this week’s court ruling.
“We continue to deploy actions that guarantee no person will face discrimination for their sexual orientation or gender identity, and that the state’s protection be given to all families under equal conditions,” Alvarado claimed on Twitter.
Although LGBTQ advocates have hailed the Costa Rica Supreme Court’s ruling as long overdue, the decision has been surprisingly divisive. Attorney Marco Castillo, who authored one of the challenges to the marriage equality prohibition weighed by the bench, claimed the verdict “makes no sense.”
“Basically what it does is prolong [the wait] for the fulfillment of our rights,” Castillo told press, as the Tico Times first reported.
Others agreed the year-and-a-half wait is unnecessary at best.
“It’s a judicial aberration for a state entity to recognize that discrimination exists, and at the same time allow that discrimination to continue for 18 months more,” added Margarita Salas, president of Costa Rica’s Vamos political party.
INTO previously reported that anti-LGBTQ hate crimes surged during the 2018 presidential election, which saw evangelical Fabricio Alvarado come in second.