Chinchilla says she would not oppose legalization of gay marriage in Costa Rica

President Laura Chinchilla said Tuesday she would not object to a ruling legalizing gay marriage. Two gay couples, as part of the Diversity Movement, asked a Costa Rican court Monday to be married in a civil union, drawing attention to the issue.

Chinchilla made the statement during the last day of her visit to California, as part of a 6-day visit to the United States. The Latin American leader noted during her campaign for president in 2009 that she was a supporter of traditional marriage. She maintains that belief. However, she qualified the issue by saying that if a Costa Rican court allowed gay couples to marry, Chinchilla would not oppose the decision.

But she does not consider gay marriage part of her “national agenda.”

“There are complex issues that require us to prioritize, such as employment or security,” Chinchilla said. “Obviously, if there is a decision of a court of law, we could not object to it.”

Same sex marriage is allowed in few Latin American places like Argentina, Brazil and Mexico City, Mexico. But many bills issued in favor of legalizing gay marriage often faces strong opposition by the powerful Catholic Church.

On Tuesday, the country held events celebrating the Day against Homophobia — an internationally-recognized movement that’s been realized in Costa Rica since 2008. The day stems from World Health Organization’s decision to no longer list homosexuality as a mental illness on May 17, 1990. The United Nations later declared that date to be International Day against Homophobia, with the purpose of promoting rights for gays, lesbians and transsexuals.

In addition, to the Diversity Movement’s same-sex marriage requests other functions helped promote gay rights. A poll on sexuality, which was also the subject of a forum discussion in the Spanish Cultural Center in downtown San José, revealed Tico attitudes toward gay rights issues.

The survey results came from the National Survey on Sexual Health and Reproductivity, which was conducted last year and collected information from 3,197 citizens (1,601 males and 1,596 female) ages 15 to 80 on sexual diversity.

On certain, notably less controversial issues, Ticos were overwhelming in favor of attitudes favorable toward the LGBT community. Approximately 73 percent of Costa Ricans disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement “I feel uncomfortable in the company of a homosexual person.” Almost 80 percent thought that homosexuals should frequent the same public places as heterosexual couples, and 88 percent supported a homosexual person’s right to work wherever he or she desires. And 89 percent agreed they could be friends with an LGBT member.

However, more than three-quarters of respondents found it shocking to see homosexual couples kissing in public. Only 45 percent believed that homosexual couples should be allowed to work with children. And what are typically seen as the most controversial topics — civil unions and adoption — Ticos overwhelming disapproved of those measures for homosexuals. About 70 percent of Costa Ricans disagreed (the majority strongly disagreeing) that gays should be permitted to marry in civil union or should have the right to adopt children.

Two-thirds of those surveyed were Catholics, while just less than a quarter were evangelical Christians. The rest were either did not practice a religion or were non-Christians. Evangelical Christians gave answers less in support of gay rights than persons of other religious backgrounds.

Gay rights support followed a clear trend when it came to age. Older poll respondents were overwhelmingly against gay rights issues. For example, about 34 percent of people between the ages of 15-34 supported gay civil unions, while 62 percent of those 65-80 concurred with that statement. Young people supported each gay rights measure by about 25-30 percent more than those on the other end of the spectrum.

EFE contributed to this report.