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Costa Rica Is Supposed to Legalize Same‑Sex Marriage This Month. Lawmakers Want to Delay It.

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May 14, 2020

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Image Credit: Tico Times

Costa Rica is one of the most progressive countries in the world — it banned all armed forces back in 1948; it boasts a literacy rate of 96%; it offers universal health insurance to Costa Ricans; it set environmental conservation goals as early as 1997 and has come close to fulfilling them. Recently, Costa Rica was lauded for fulfilling yet another marker of progressive ideals — same-sex marriage. In 2016, former President Luis Guillermo Solis had promised to expand LGBTQIA+ rights in the country, a move that had stood out at the time against its socially conservative Central American counterparts. In 2018, the country’s Supreme Court fulfilled the promise, overturning the ban on same-sex marriage, asking legislators to legalize gay marriage by mid-2020. 

May 26 marks the deadline for legislators to have done so, with the nation’s civil registry primed to accept marriage registrations by same-sex couples. While news headlines are serving as harbingers of this welcome chain of events, a fight seems to be brewing in the Costa Rican government. On May 12, 24 legislators, making up 43% of the legislature, tried to introduce a motion to delay this promise for 18 months, citing the coronavirus pandemic as one of their reasons, claiming they haven’t had time to fully review the implications of legalizing gay marriage, Costa Rica’s Q Magazine reported. The polarization caused by this about-turn by conservatives even culminated in a physical altercation between two officials, Reuters reported. 


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Thankfully, if the remaining legislators fail to legalize same-sex marriage before the May 26 deadline in light of other lawmakers trying to delay it, the Supreme Court’s ruling will prevail, ultimately making Costa Rica the first Central American country to grant marriage as a human right to its LGBTQIA+ population. 

While the fight brews in the legislature, an officiant at the civil registry has said “significant efforts” have already been made to update computer systems at the registry office to better accommodate new registrations starting May 27, Q Magazine reported

However, lessons from other countries that have legalised same-sex marriage signal it’s only the first step to granting all civil liberties to LGBTQIA+ people. Changes to housing laws, penalties on discrimination, amendments to social security codes — all need to accompany this progressive shift in the country’s legal framework. For that, the country’s legislature will need to catch up. 

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Written By Rajvi Desai

Rajvi Desai is The Swaddle’s Culture Editor. After graduating from NYU as a Journalism and Politics major, she covered breaking news and politics in New York City, and dabbled in design and entertainment journalism. Back in the homeland, she’s interested in tackling beauty, sports, politics and human rights in her gender-focused writing, while also co-managing The Swaddle Team’s podcast, Respectfully Disagree.

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