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First Gay Civil Union in Costa Rica Could be Weeks Away

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Source: Flickr CC

Source: Flickr CC

The first-ever legally recognized civil union between same-gender partners in Costa Rica might take place in one or two weeks. Such was the statement pronounced by Marco Castillo, an attorney and president of the Diversity Movement in Costa Rica. Mr. Castillo is currently handling petitions from three couples who want legal recognition of their rights to civil unions as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) people.

If everything goes as planned, the metropolitan canton of Desamparados in the loveable capital city of San Jose will be the site of the first gay legal union in Costa Rica, a Roman Catholic nation by virtue of her Constitution. A tribunal in Desamparados is currently examining the petitions, which were filed in the wake of the passing of a new Law to Protect Youth in Costa Rica. This law made international headlines when some ultra-conservative legislators claimed to have been duped into signing a legislative proposal that lifted gender discrimination in civil unions.

The passing of the Law to Protect Youth was received with a jocular attitude by the people of Costa Rica because it underscored the sad fact that most legislators don’t even bother to read the legislative proposals they sign. On the other hand, there has been strong opposition by Protestant and Catholic groups against what they think is an affront to traditional marriage in Costa Rica.

It is important to note that civil unions and marriages and Costa Rica are not the same. Civil unions, however, can be seen as being legally stronger than the common law marriages of Anglo-Saxon legal systems. For example, for a civil union to be legally binding in Costa Rica, witnesses must attest the personal and common property of the couple -and this attestation must be certified in court.

Some legislators urged President Laura Chinchilla, who is conservative, to exercise her veto powers on the Law to Protect Youth and stop LGBT civil unions. This request came from legislators who felt that they were subject to a flimflam pulled by liberal lawmakers. President Chinchilla declined this request, reminding legislators that they should do their jobs and at least read the proposals that come across their desks. She also said this was a matter for the Constitutional Chamber (Sala Cuarta) to decide.

The law has already been challenged before Sala Cuarta, but the most important ruling came from an inquiry from a judge in the province of Heredia, who wanted to make sure that the Law to Protect Youth indeed empowered civil unions without regard to gender. The high court ruled that this is not a Constitutional matter; it is rather a matter of applying the law as it was passed.

Source: La Prensa Libre

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