San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Social conservatives march against abortion, gay rights

Social conservatives came out in droves Saturday morning for a “pro-family” march, days after sexual diversity leaders anticipated possible court decisions on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in the Costa Rica.

Some 5,000 white-clad demonstrators rallied in San José’s Plaza de la Democracia at 10 a.m. against same-sex domestic partnerships, the legalization of in vitro fertilization and abortion, described as a “combo of death” by the event’s organizer, Juan de Dios Calerdón, president of the Evangelists and Prophets Network.

Demonstrators marched down Avenida Segunda, San José’s main thoroughfare, carrying signs reading, “Abortion is a crime committed by cowards,” and “A Child is a gift from God, not a right,” referring to IVF, and “Promiscuity does not equal rights,” among others.  

Volunteers wended through the crowd collecting signatures for a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between one man and one woman.  

Justo Orozco, a presidential candidate for the Costa Rican Renovation Party, said the thousands in attendance were a “small demonstration of what we could do.”

“We could mobilize half a million people anywhere we want,” he boasted.

“This is a demonstration of what Costa Rica wants,” the conservative lawmaker told The Tico Times.

The firebrand politician added that if legislators did not take note of the march’s goals they would assemble “multiply this number by 100. Half of Costa Rica will be here.”

Orozco at Family March

Justo Orozco, presidential candidate and legislator from the Costa Rican Renovation Party, told The Tico Times, “Here, we don’t discriminate against anyone,” referring to lesbian, gays, bisexuals and transgender people. “In the private sphere Costa Rica is a free country and people can do what they want. The problem is when they invade the public space.” 

Alberto Font

Orozco remained determined to not bow to pressure from the Inter-American Court on Human Rights to legalize in vitro fertilization, following a 2012 binding decision from the international tribunal that said the country’s decade-old ban on the fertility practice violated plaintiffs’ human rights.

“If the Inter-American Court keeps interfering with the values of Costa Ricans we’re going to have to leave it, like Venezuela. We’re a free and sovereign country,” he said.

Last week, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights announced that it would consider a complaint filed by lawyer and LGBT advocate Yashín Castrillo to marry his same-sex partner.

The same week, Diversity Movement President Marco Castillo announced that the Family Court in Desamparados, San José, could issue a decision on what would be the country’s first same-sex domestic partnership in coming weeks.

Following the passage of the Young Person Law earlier this summer and its possible legal doorway to same-sex domestic partnerships, volunteers Saturday morning combed the crowds collecting signatures to add a heterosexual definition of marriage to the Costa Rican Constitution.

The reform to Article 52 of the Constitution would read, “Marriage between one man and one woman is the essential base of the family.” The current language does not specify the sex of those married.

Article 14 of the Costa Rican Family Code already defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

Many demonstrators The Tico Times spoke with at the march agreed that their definition of marriage was in need of additional legal protection.

“Groups who are against the Bible are becoming a powerful force and they’re crossing the line,” said Baptist pastor Luis Guzmán from Desamparados, referring to progressive definitions of the family.

“There are some who believe there are doors opening,” Orozco said, referring to the pending same-sex common-law marriages. “We want to shut them.”

 Maribel Alvarado and María Mora agreed.

“That’s where it starts,” Mora said, shaking her head at the thought of legally recognized same-sex relationships.

“Young people are going to grow up thinking [gay marriage] is OK and it’s not,” added Alvarado, holding a handmade sign in favor of traditional marriage.

Only 22.3 percent of Ticos support gay marriage, According to a 2012 report from the Latin American Public Opinion Project. A recent social inclusion index from Americas Quarterly ranked Costa Rica among the bottom third of Latin American countries surveyed for LGBT rights.

Castrillo, who attended the demonstration, told The Tico Times that the event’s message was contradictory.

“They disqualify love just because it’s been between two people of the same sex,” the lawyer said, “It can’t be a message a peace and love; it’s a call to violence.”

The LGBT rights advocate noted that the battle over sexual diversity in Costa Rica hinged on convincing young people.

“I think it’s poisonous for society. It goes against democratic pluralism. It doesn’t teach [young people] to respect differences and live with them, even if they don’t like them. The message is destroy these differences, eliminate them. It’s an easy message; the difficult one is to convince and educate people — especially young people — to respect each other.” 

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