San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Gay-Rights Activists Meet to Define Goals

More than a hundred national and foreign activists, including two Costa Rican legislators and César Cigliutti, the first homosexual Latin American to join his partner in civil union, participated in Costa Rica’s first Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transgender (GLBT) Conference last weekend.

The event concluded Sunday with the goals of creating a bill that would outlaw all forms of discrimination, proposing a human-rights commission at the Legislative Assembly, and scheduling a meeting with incoming President Oscar Arias to discuss these goals.

“In Costa Rica, one lives an institutionalized and systematic type of discrimination,” said organizer Abelardo Araya, president of the Diversity Movement, a group of 30 activists founded in 2004. He told journalists at a press conference Sunday night at Hotel D’Galah in San Pedro, east of San José, that no laws exist to prevent discrimination here.

Legislators Andrea Morales, of the Citizen Action Party (PAC), and Broad Front legislator José Merino attended the event, held in Birrí, a small town in the mountains above Heredia, north of San José, and pledged to assist the movement’s cause.

The vindication of hatred is something that doesn’t have much future, and it’s only a matter of time before homosexuals claim their rights and put an end to discrimination, Cigliutti prophesied in an interview with The Tico Times last week.

Cigliutti, 48, president of the Argentinean Homosexual Community (CHA), legally joined his partner, CHA secretary Marcelo Suntheim, 36, in July 2003, after Congress approved a law that allows civil union without gender restrictions in Buenos Aires.

On his first trip to Central America, Cigliutti, from Buenos Aires, traveled to Costa Rica to attend the GLBT Conference and share his experience as an activist. He told the press discrimination against people with different sexual orientations is comparable to other forms of discrimination.

“No discrimination is innocent; no person who discriminates is innocent, and it’s not enough to not discriminate, the state needs to promote policies to prevent it,” he said, adding that a society’s richest asset is its diversity.

Through the anti-discrimination bill, which Araya expects to present to the Legislative Assembly this year, the Diversity Movement hopes to strengthen the rights of Afro descendants, the indigenous population, women, senior citizens, and other discriminated sectors.

“What happens when there is a woman who is black and a lesbian?” he asked to illustrate why their bill will not focus only on the GLBT population.

Apart from the bill, the Diversity Movement seeks to prevent discrimination through the creation of a permanent human-rights commission at the Legislative Assembly.

Although the legislators whose term ended May 1 rejected this idea, the movement will take it up again, Araya said.

“One of the reasons it was rejected is because they said human rights are not violated in Costa Rica. This does not match the reality,” he said.

However, following the conference and with a new assembly inaugurated Monday (see separate article), Araya said he feels the assembly’s doors are open.

Leg i s l a to r s Morales and Merino, elected in February’s national election, last weekend became the first politicians to attend a Diversity Movement event, Araya said.

He said Merino promised the support of his party, while Morales pledged her personal support and announced she would take on the challenge of acting as a bridge in establishing communication with the assembly about the struggle for sexual-orientation rights.

Incoming President Arias also offered his support to their cause during his campaign, Araya said.

“He promised his support during his campaign, now he has to keep his promise,” Araya told journalists at Sunday’s press conference. Cigliutti agreed.

“If he doesn’t do it (keep his promise), that speaks poorly of his campaign, his party and his word,” he said.

Participants at the conference produced two documents they want to give Arias: a declaration of the Diversity Movement’s requests for the coming government and a pron o u n c e m e n t against the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA).

While in Argentina, gay activists are now working on making adoption legal for same-sex couples, the Costa Rican government has only recently started evaluating same-sex legal union.

Yesterday, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) held a hearing for a lawsuit filed by Costa Rican lawyer Yasin Castrillo in 2003 against the prohibition of same-sex marriage. After this initial hearing, Sala IV has one month to study the case and make a decision, as established by Costa Rican law.

During the hearing, Castrillo said his lawsuit aims to correct a human-rights violation that goes against the country’s democratic values.

His opponents, which included government attorneys Fernando Castillo and Farid Beirute, raised arguments founded on morality and religion.

Not surprisingly, Costa Rica’s Catholic Church leaders oppose same-sex civil union.

Archbishop Hugo Barrantes told The Tico Times that the Church will continue to defend the concept of matrimony as “natural law” dictates: between a man and a woman.

“Natural law prevails over people’s rights,” said the Archbishop, who added that if consulted by the country’s legislature, the Church would defend “natural law.”


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