Judge rejects gay couple's domestic partnership

A family court judge in San José has rejected a gay domestic partnership application in the first legal test of Costa Rica’s controversial reform to the Young Person Law.

Alberto González and Lorenzo Serrano discovered in July that San José Family Court Judge Jorge Arturo Marchena Rosabel had rejected their petition for a legally recognized domestic partnership. The two young men have been a couple for seven years and have lived together for six-and-half years.

“We knew that the result could be positive or negative. Honestly, because of the Young Person Law we thought it would go through but there you have it, it didn’t happen,” González told The Tico Times Friday.

The couple’s lawyer, Marco Castillo, president of LGBT organization Diversity Movement, said that they had already appealed the judge’s decision and are waiting for a response. The Supreme Tribunal of the Family Courts will hear the appeal.

“We’re hopeful that the Family Court will resolve the matter favorably and that we hope we can move forward with this law because the law is clear,” Castillo told The Tico Times. 

González and Serrano were one of several couples who applied for a same-sex domestic partnership on July 9, following the approval of a reform to the Young Person Law. The amendment states that common-law marriages shall be granted without “discrimination contrary to human dignity.” 

Under Costa Rican law, two people must live together for at least three years and provide witnesses who can testify to their relationship. Domestic partnerships are not the same as marriage under Costa Rican law but do provide some of the same benefits as marriage, including hospital visitation, inheritance rights and insurance coverage.

Judge Marchena said in his ruling that it was a “legally impossible” in Costa Rica for two people of the same sex to be married or share in a domestic partnership, according to the ruling as provided by Castillo to The Tico Times.

Marchena’s ruling goes on to argue that the current law will not support gay domestic partnerships because the relationship cannot result in marriage. In his ruling, the judge cites Family Code Article 14, section 6, which says marriage cannot happen between two people of the same sex; and Article 242, which says domestic partnerships are only between a man and a woman.

Castillo’s appeal argues that the ruling confuses domestic partnerships with marriage, asserting that the two are mutually exclusive legal relationships.

The lawyer pointed out that there was no reason to believe that this decision would set a precedent for the other eight cases he was aware of pending across Costa Rica for same-sex domestic partnership benefits.

González told The Tico Times that he was disappointed with the result but was already looking forward to the next step.

This weekend, volunteers with the Front for Equal Rights will start collecting signatures outside San José for its petition to legalize gay marriage in Costa Rica. Advocates will be in Limón, Heredia, Cartago, as well as San José.

“Even if the judge had accepted the documents we wouldn’t have stopped there,” González said.