costa rica supreme court
costa rica supreme court

Costa Rica’s Supreme Court Just Overturned the Country’s Ban on Marriage Equality

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The Costa Rica Supreme Court has ordered the Central American country to enact marriage equality legislation by 2020, declaring the current Costa Rica Family Code “unconstitutional and discriminatory.”

costa rica supreme court
Photo: Fotogenia/Getty Images

President Carlos Alvarado welcomed the Wednesday-night ruling on Twitter, writing, “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 will be given to all families under equal conditions.”

Costa Rica Supreme Court justice Fernando Castillo clarified that any bans on marriage equality would automatically voided in 18 months, regardless of whether legislators stepped up or not. But Enrique Sanchez, the first out member of the Costa Rican legislature, is doubtful a new law will be passed in that time frame, especially since nearly a quarter of the legislature are evangelical Christians.

“What I see happening is that the [ban] will simply be declared unconstitutional in 18 months’ time,” Sanchez said, according to Germany’s Deutsche Welle.

In January, the the Inter-American Human Rights Court ruled that nations that have signed the American Convention on Human Rights have to recognize same-sex marriage — or at least the rights associated with it. Costa Rica is among the two dozen countries that signed the convention, and marriage equality became a major issue in the April presidential election. Evangelical singer Fabricio Alvarado Muñoz, President Alvarado’s opponent, promised to reject the Inter-American Human Rights court’s ruling if elected, calling it “an affront to traditional values.” Despite Costa Rica’s predominant Catholic constituency, Alvarado (below) won 60% of the vote.

Costa Rica Supreme Court
Costa Rican president Carlos Alvarado celebrates victory earlier this year.

Should lawmakers pass a gay marriage law, it would make Costa Rica the first country in Central America to recognize marriage equality. (Same-sex marriage is valid in certain parts of Mexico.)

But that’s by no means a foregone conclusion: According to the Pew Research Center, more than 60% of Costa Ricans oppose same-sex marriage. In January, parents blocked the entrances to more than a dozen elementary schools and kept their children at home to protest what they called the “gender ideology” being taught in sex education classes.

Do you think the Costa Rica Supreme Court’s ruling will lead to marriage equality by 2020?