San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Human Rights Commission votes against bill extending economic benefits to same-sex couples

Keeping his word, evangelical lawmaker Justo Orozco took a look at a bill that would improve gay rights – briefly. And now he won’t have to think about the bill again for a long time.

Orozco, the controversial head of Costa Rica’s Human Rights Commission, held a vote Wednesday on whether the Legislative Assembly should consider a bill on sociedades de convivencia, or coexistence partnerships. For same-sex couples in Costa Rica, the bill guarantees economic benefits similar to what heterosexual couples receive.

The human rights panel voted against the bill, 4-2. Orozco, Adonay Henríquez of the Libertarian Movement and Jorge Angulo and Luis Antonio Aiza of the ruling National Liberation Party (PLN) voted against taking further action with the bill. Carmen Muñoz of the Citizens Action Party and Oscar Alfaro of the PLN voted in favor of the bill.

The bill falls to the bottom of the commission’s agenda, as the group will look to focus on some 20 other bills.

Amid protests last week, Orozco was named head of the commission, due to an alliance between the PLN, the Access Without Exclusion Party and Costa Rica’s two evangelical lawmakers.

Activists protested outside the forum as Orozco left the Legislative Assembly escorted by the police.

“We’ve dealt with the problem,” Orozco told the press as he exited. “I solve problems. We voted today because the lawmakers who are against the bill requested it. With other bills, it’s going to be the same. I will deal with them quickly.”

As the commission reviewed the bill, protesters shouted, “Shame, shame, shame. Justo Orozco discriminates and does not tell the truth.”

The Diversity Movement, an organization that promotes gay rights, announced its intention to soon file a legal complaint that states that the commission is designed to obstruct LGBT rights in the country.

Opposition lawmakers like Muñoz and Libertarian Movement President Carlos Góngora lamented the commission’s vote, and called the move a step back for Costa Rica.

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