San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Decisions expected soon on gay marriage, domestic partnerships in Costa Rica

Two different paths to expanding rights for gay and lesbian couples in Costa Rica are coming to a head in coming weeks.

Decisions are expected in late August and early September regarding same-sex domestic partnerships and an appeal to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on gay marriage in Costa Rica, according to several sources.

The government of Costa Rica has until Sept. 8 to respond to a petition filed with the IACHR by lawyer Yashín Castrillo requesting the right to marry his gay partner.

The letter, dated July 8, was in response to Castrillo’s November 2012 petition to the Washington, D.C.-based human rights commission in which he argued for the right to marry his partner after exhausting his legal options in Costa Rica.

Castrillo believes his case will have a strong foundation since Costa Rican Foreign Minister Enrique Castillo signed the Inter-American Convention against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance in June. 

Castrillo said that the convention’s language was “extremely clear” when it came to discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The Organization of American States website described the convention as the “first legally binding instrument” that condemns discrimination based on “nationality, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression,” among many other characteristics.

“It would be totally contradictory to have one position in Washington [where the convention was signed] in favor of the right to same-sex marriage and then deny this right” in Costa Rica, he told The Tico Times. “It would be a double standard.”

Costa Rican law requires the Legislative Assembly to approve all international agreements. At press time, the legislature had yet to approve the convention.

Costa Rica, despite hosting the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, has a mixed record when it comes to complying with decisions from the IACHR and the court.

The country has been delaying the implementation of the court’s binding ruling on legalization of in vitro fertilization. The IACHR told Costa Rica in 2010 that the ban on the fertility treatment violated the plaintiffs’ human rights. Costa Rica routinely requested extensions for the Legislative Assembly to pass legislation legalizing IVF, which was banned in the country by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court a decade ago.

In 2012, the IACHR took Costa Rica to the Inter-American Court for noncompliance in the matter. The country’s legislature has still not passed legislation legalizing and regulating the procedure here. 

Meanwhile, a family court in Desamaparados, southeast of the capital, could issue a ruling sometime this month on same-sex domestic partnerships in Costa Rica.

According to Marco Castillo, president of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organization Diversity Movement, the court has already interviewed the witnesses, two for each partner, to verify that the couple co-habitates, reported yesterday. 

The LGBT leader said the decision would be published in the judicial bulletin.

The court’s decision would be the first legal interpretation of Article 4, a controversial provision of the Young Persons Law that some LBGT advocates argue opens a door to same-sex domestic partnerships.

Domestic partnerships are not equivalent to marriage, legally, but share many of the same benefits, including inheritance and hospital visitation rights, among others.

In Costa Rica, there are two avenues to moving LGBT rights forward: one is by pursuing incremental change, while another promotes abrupt change.

In a previous interview, Yashín Castrillo told The Tico Times that he believed the only avenue to gay marriage in Costa Rica was via the international court, citing that Article 14 of the country’s Family Code states that marriage is between one man and one woman.

Castrillo said he’s not interested in half measures when it comes to gay marriage.

“My position is simple: I’m not going to enter into any negotiation, I’m not going to step down, I’m not going to open a space where there are promises made that go unfulfilled, delays that just waste time, no way,” he said.

“They can give me what I’m asking for or the Inter-American Court can settle it,” Castrillo said.

Either way, the two pending decisions will have a great impact on the future of LGBT rights in Costa Rica. 

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