Yay for gays

President of Costa Rica raises LGBT flag over Casa Presidencial

Just over a week since taking office, President Luis Guillermo Solís made history Friday morning when he became the first Costa Rican leader to raise the rainbow flag of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movement on even mast with the Costa Rican red-white-and-blue tricolor on the lawn of the Casa Presidencial. Vice President Ana Helena Chacón hoisted the flag in honor of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, May 17.

“This is the house of all Costa Ricans. When we say all Costa Ricans we mean all, without exclusion, without violence, without harassment in absolute respect for the rights of each one,” Solís told a crowd of LGBT leaders and advocates during his brief comments on the lawn.

“We’re fighting against discrimination in defense of the human rights of all Costa Ricans,” the president said, adding that discrimination based on sexual orientation was against the letter and spirit of the Costa Rican Constitution and human rights declarations the government has signed.

Ana Helena Chacón, one of Costa Rica’s vice presidents, raises the diversity flag for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

Lindsay Fendt/The Tico Times

Marco Castillo, president of the Diversity Movement, a Costa Rican LGBT advocacy organization, said the gesture was a sign of hope of things to come as a bill for civil unions makes its way through the Legislative Assembly and the Costa Rican Social Security System debates extending insurance benefits to same-sex couples.

“We [have seen] a sign of hope today but we hope it becomes reality,” said Castillo.

Vice President Ana Helena Chacón said that recognizing property and inheritance rights, and extending insurance benefits, and hospital visitation rights would be priorities for the Solís administration, which took office May 8.

Despite the government’s vocal support for equal rights for LGBT Ticos, the Solís administration stops short of endorsing gay marriage or civil unions.

“We’re not getting involved in the question of matrimony because we believe this is a subject that has more to do with questions of religion, where we don’t think we should be involved,” Ombudswoman Ofelia Taitelbaum told The Tico Times.

“We want to grant them rights,” she added. “What I can say is that the civil rights of this group be respected.”

There was a small handful of protesters outside the Casa Presidencial in Zapote, including one man holding a sign ripping on Solís’ campaign slogan: “Don’t mess with Costa Rica and even less with God.”

Solís walked outside the gates of the office and greeted the demonstrators.

Julio Goyenaga, 60, stands outside of Casa Presidencial to protest as the president and gay rights activists hang the diversity flag for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. His sign has President Luis Guillermo Solís’s campaign slogan “Don’t mess with Costa Rica” followed by “and less with god.”

Lindsay Fendt/The Tico Times

“It looks very bad for Costa Rica. For me it’s a total embarrassment. There should be more people here demonstrating,” said Julio Goyenaga, 60, who held a placard referencing Galatians 6:7, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

“I don’t have words for what’s going on here. If this is just the start of this government, what’s coming?” he asked.

“I have to do the job as president for all Costa Ricans. If I lose sympathy or popularity in the process, then it’s what the job demands,” Solís said when asked how the act might affect his polling numbers.

“I’m not in a beauty contest,” he said.

According to a 2013 report from the United Nations Development Program in Costa Rica, only 3 percent of respondents said they felt they had been discriminated against because of their sexual orientation, less than age (26 percent), religion (16 percent) or sex (14 percent). Thirty-four percent of Costa Ricans said they had a close family member who was gay or lesbian.

A 2012 survey from the daily La Nación said that 55 percent of respondents believe same-sex couples should be extended the same rights as heterosexual couples.

Recommended: Dismantling Costa Rica’s lesbian and gay closet

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David Pacheco

I have several FB friends and acquaintances from Costa Rica who in the past few days have expressed dismay that the brand-new President of CR, Luis Guillermo Solís, raise the rainbow flag on the lawn of the Casa Presidencial in honor of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on May 17.

To their credit, very few friends are expressing this dismay as clear homophobia, although some have (and are no longer my FB friends). But the other expressions, while more subtle, are still troubling.

The most common are variations on the theme expressed and forwarded in online articles that say “The Casa Presidencial should represent ALL Ticos, not just a few! Why don’t they raise the banner of the Dia del Agricultor (Farmer’s Day) or the Dia de la Familia (Family Day)? Why not the flag of the Roman Catholic Church?”

That sounds reasonable, right?

But I wonder if any of the people who express that point of view would be offended if there were a Farmer’s Day banner flying over the Casa Presidencial. How many of them would run to their FB wall to complain that we are not all farmers, and how dare the President single out just that one group? How many of them would criticize the new President for being so exclusionary, since most Ticos are in fact NOT farmers?

How many would stand up and protest for the rights of Ticos who don’t have a family, if the banner for Family Day were flying? Who among them would be writing letters to the Tico Times expressing concern that non-Catholics in the country were being oppressed and excluded by such blatant pandering?

How many would complain on the International Day Against Violence Towards Women, that the President is only recognizing 50% of Ticos because… they are actually Ticas?

None. You would most probably simply appreciate that many Ticos ARE farmers and ARE members of a family, and that recognizing them on their day is a nice tribute, even if you are a Tico who does not belong to their ranks.

But oh, the irony of complaining about the rainbow flag, on the very day of the year in which we should be thinking about how much violence and hatred and EXCLUSION is directed towards other human beings because of their sexual orientation and gender identification. Including in Costa Rica.

I would like to suggest that you consider that no one in Costa Rica is afraid of “coming out” as a farmer to their parents and friends and co-workers; that no one gets bullied and beaten up in their school because they are a Roman Catholic. That no one can get fired or thrown out of a bar because they are members of a family, and that farmers are not denied the right to marry the person they love, or adopt children or even have their partners farmers recognized as their own family members. NO Roman Catholic in Costa Rica has been denied visitation rights to their own family because of their religion.

And consider that perhaps the hatred and criticism towards Luis Guillermo Solís for making a the tiniest token of acceptance towards a group that has been historically sidelined, discriminated against and a target of violence and abuse ON THE VERY DAY the world is recognizing how big of a problem that is, is a sign for those of you who feel such vitriol to start thinking about why that abuse is such a huge problem. It’s because of that very mentality: cloaked in the “we are all Ticos!” excuse, it manages to generate outrage only when you are reminded that there are many Ticos who are different from you in ways you find uncomfortable.

That discomfort, that outrage, is exactly what the Día Internacional contra la Homofobia y la Transfobia is supposed to be fighting against. If you are feeling it, then perhaps you are missing the entire point of the day, the very point of raising the banner, and the pain and suffering your attitude is causing towards other people who are just as Ticos as you are.

And to my LGBTQ friends in Costa Rica, I offer the love and unconditional support you deserve, on this of all days; and the hope that some day the public statement that you, too are Ticos, causes as little controversy as it does today for the farmers, for the families, for the church members.

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David Boddiger

Excellent perspective. Thanks for sharing.

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Guanacasteco

What??? Why not the flag of the Roman Catholic Church? Why not the flag of Guanacaste? This is not what I voted for.