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Marriage Equality, Transgender Rights Might be on the Horizon in Costa Rica

Alvarado Quesada Wins Presidential Elections

Supporters of Carlos Alvarado Quesada, presidential candidate of the ruling Citizens' Action Party (PAC), hold up a rainbow LGBT pride flag during the presidential election in San Jose, Costa Rica, April 1, 2018.  © 2018 Reuters

On April 1, Carlos Alvarado Quesada won the presidential elections in Costa Rica in a landslide victory, 61 percent to 39 percent, with marriage equality as a central theme in the presidential campaign.

Same-sex marriage came to the fore in the run-up to the election after the Inter-American Court on Human Rights delivered an advisory opinion finding that the American Convention on Human Rights should be interpreted to require Costa Rica and other countries to allow same-sex couples access to civil marriage.

Opposition candidate Fabricio Alvarado Muñoz called the court’s opinion a violation of Costa Rica’s sovereignty and traditional values. He even threatened to remove the country from the court’s jurisdiction should he be elected.

Alvarado Quesada, by contrast, vowed to back the court’s opinion, which also recommended that countries establish simple, efficient, and rights-respecting procedures that allow transgender people to change their names and gender markers in official documents.

After visiting Costa Rica in March 2016, Human Rights Watch wrote to the current Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Salis, calling on him to introduce marriage equality legislation so that same-sex partners in Costa Rica might marry the person they love. This would strengthen the fundamental rights of everyone in Costa Rica to equality and nondiscrimination. In writing the letter, we joined Costa Rican activists who had already been advocating for same-sex marriage for much longer.

In May 2016, the Costa Rican government requested that the Inter-American Court on Human Rights give its opinion on whether the American Convention’s equal protection and privacy provisions could necessitate that Costa Rica create a legal framework for recognizing the economic rights of same-sex couples. The court’s opinion, which dealt primarily with transgender people’s rights, then turned to the rights of same-sex couples, finding that steps should be taken towards marriage equality.

Alvarado Quesada will be sworn in as Costa Rica’s new president on May 8 for a four-year term. He should speedily deliver on his campaign promises and back marriage equality legislation, while also moving forward on legal gender recognition for transgender people.


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