Marchers demonstrate for marriage equality and LGBT family rights

Thousands of demonstrators and well-wishers converged on Paseo Colón Sunday afternoon to celebrate the Diversity March, San José’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride event. Organizers used the lively parade to launch a national campaign for marriage equality and recognize Costa Rica’s LGBT families.

Chanting, “Marriage equality now!” demonstrators waved rainbow flags and held signs with slogans like “For a just and inclusive society” and “I’m heterosexual and support gay rights” as they marched (or danced) down San José’s main thoroughfare and on to Central Park on Second Avenue.

Wending through the crowds, volunteers wearing tall orange signs collected signatures in favor of the campaign for the Front for Equal Rights’ (FDI) marriage equality bill. FDI, a coalition of political activists, religious and student organizations, and left-leaning political parities, is organizing the campaign to propose a bill to the legislature under the popular initiative provision, by which citizens can bring a bill up for consideration in the legislature if they are able to collect signatures from 5 percent of the population.

Volunteers collected more than 2,000 signatures from Ticos at yesterday’s event, according to the Diversity Movement, one of the parade’s principle organizers. The campaign needs 165,000 signatures total to successfully bring the petition before the Legislative Assembly.

FDI volunteer Héctor Vayez said that he was collecting signatures in the hopes of legally marrying his husband of nine years. Vayez noted that “religious fundamentalists” in the legislature were a hurdle for the marriage equality bill, but said that as a Christian himself, he sees no conflict between his faith and same-sex marriage.

“God loves us as we are and doesn’t ask us to change anything,” he said.

Yesterday was marcher Rebecca Majore’s first time at a public pride parade. Majore, accompanied by her partner Paola Arce and their daughter, María Fernanda, said that she decided to come out because she felt “free” for the first time in her life.

“I have an amazing woman next to me,” she said, putting her hand on Arce’s shoulder, “and I don’t want to deny myself anymore. It’s my own decision. When my daughter was old enough to understand, it was an easy decision for me, and here I have her supporting me at my side.”

Arce said that there were many challenges to raising a daughter as a lesbian couple in Costa Rica while trying to protect their daughter from put-downs at school and on the street.

“There is a lot of discrimination, myths that have to be broken about what it means to have an mother who is openly lesbian,” including the belief that the child will become a lesbian because of the mother’s influence, Arce said.

As marchers filed into Central Park on Second Avenue, Deputy Carmen Muñoz of the Citizen Action Party said the fight for human rights was a broad one, adding that the battle for LGBT rights in Costa Rica would not be complete until migrants, women and indigenous people were also extended the same consideration and rights as “first class citizens.”

United States Chargé d’Affaires Eric Nelson congratulated organizers and demonstrators on stage at the event. Nelson quoted President Barack Obama’s speech in Berlin, saying, “When we stand up for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters and treat their love and their rights equally under the law, we defend our own liberty as well.”

The U.S. Embassy donated funds to provide sound equipment used by the parade’s organizers and musician Mary McBride, who performed at the event as a U.S. cultural envoy.

Activists called on the provincial government to make good on its claim that San José was a canton “without discrimination.” Last week, LGBT organizers were blindsided by the San José City government’s decision not to grant almost $12,000 to organizers for a two-day festival that would have led up to Sunday’s parade.

Diversity Movement President Marco Castillo was disappointed by the city’s decision to pull funding but told The Tico Times that the parade yesterday was a great success.

“It’s important to show that we were able to organize a successful event even without the city’s support,” Castillo said.

Wearing a T-shirt reading, “I love my gay grandpa,” Fiorella Castillo, granddaughter of Marco Castillo, said she was too young to sign the petition but was confident the marriage equality bill would be successful.

Fiorella added that there was no difference between her gay grandfather and another family’s heterosexual grandparents, “I love him all the same.”