Latin America Advisor

A Daily Publication of The Dialogue

Costa Rica Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

A Costa Rican flag waves beside a rainbow pride flag outside the presidential palace in San José. A Costa Rican flag waves beside a rainbow pride flag outside the presidential palace in San José. // File Photo: Costa Rican Government.

Costa Rica on May 26 became the first Central American country, and the sixth one in Latin America, to fully legalize same-sex marriage, the Tico Times reported.

The Central American nation’s Supreme Court in 2018 ruled the country’s ban on gay marriage unconstitutional and gave the Legislative Assembly 18 months to end the prohibition, or the ban would automatically be lifted. The deadline expired at midnight on May 25. The first same-sex wedding ceremony, between Daritza Araya and Alexandra Quirós, was streamed live on social media platforms, with tens of thousands of people tuning in to watch.

“Costa Rica officially recognizes marriage equality,” President Carlos Alvarado, who campaigned in favor of same-sex marriage in a polarizing presidential election in 2018, wrote on Twitter. “Today we celebrate liberty, equality and democratic institutions. Let empathy and love be the compass that allows us to move forward and build a country where every person fits in,” he added.

The Supreme Court’s ruling followed a decision by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, or CIDH, in January 2018 that all of its signatory countries must allow same-sex marriage. The court’s verdict was binding for many Latin American nations, including Costa Rica, whose government took the issue to the CIDH under the administration of former President Luis Guillermo Solís.

The CIDH’s ruling came a month before the Central American country’s 2018 election, virtually turning the vote into a referendum on same-sex marriage and pushing conservative evangelical candidate Fabricio Alvarado ahead in the first-round results, The New York Times reported. He faced Carlos Alvarado in the runoff, which the current president won with three-fifths of the vote.

“Costa Rica once again delivered a beautiful democratic message,” Carlos Alvarado said in his victory speech in 2018. “What unites is much greater than what divides us,” he added.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, same-sex marriage is legal in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Uruguay and parts of Mexico, according to the Atlantic Council. Legislation or rulings on marriage equality are pending in several other countries, including Bolivia, Chile, El Salvador, Honduras and Panama. Some of these countries, such as Chile, allow same-sex civil unions.

Among the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean where same-sex marriage is explicitly forbidden are Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela. Additionally, same-sex unions are illegal in Caribbean nations such as Barbados, Dominica and Jamaica, even though these countries are theoretically bound by the CIDH’s 2018 decision.