New Referendum Would Challenge Ticos to Form an Opinion on Gay Civil Unions.
The controversy over gay rights continues to trouble the Costa Rican legal system and its people. The first anti-constitutional action taken to court was presented in 2003 by gay lawyer, Yashin Castrillo Fernandez. Three years later magistrates for the constitution gathered and voted five to two that there was a lack of clarity regarding the situation for homosexual civil unions. However, they left the decision in the hands of Congress, much to the chagrin of gay rights activists. Castrillo was quoted afterward stating that Costa Rica should be ashamed with the decision as it was a step backward for the country.
It has been nearly two years since this ruling and the bill in question is still in limbo. The bill would permit gay civil unions, granting the same benefits that heterosexual couples receive such as inheritance rights, pensions, tax rights and the like.
However, in the last few months there has been progress of sorts regarding the issue. Though the Ministry of Health supports gay rights in Costa Rica and endorses the need for this group to have the equalities as would be granted by the original bill, the public at large is strongly against it. In July we saw a religious protest against the referendum of nearly 20,000 strong; as Costa Rica is mainly a Catholic country this wasn’t a complete surprise. Yet, the newest disagreement has taken the form of a referendum recently called for by Congress, which states that a majority vote of 1.3 million Costa Ricans is sufficient to either allow or prohibit the civil unions in question.
The problem with this referendum is that gays in Costa Rica represent a minority group; 250,000 adult homosexuals live in Costa Rica as estimated by the Moviemiento Diversidad (Diversity Movement). Thus, an appeal against this referendum has been made in the name of those seeking civil unions, claiming that it is an unfair challenge to have non-gays vote positively on an issue that does not concern them. The Supreme Court of Elections (TSE) will now have to resolve the appeal first before any vote can take place on the referendum.
A most recent and important update that aims to help the chances of gaining a positive result from the referendum is that the Partido Accesibilidad Sin Exclusion (PASE), or loosely translated, the Party for Accessibility without Exclusion, has made a call to action. PASE has enlisted 150 volunteers to gather signatures, with a personal goal of 1,000 signatures a piece. These signatures would provide electoral shelter from the referendum, thus taking the vote out of the majority’s hands. PASE has estimated that it could collect the necessary number of signatures by this coming February.
PASE has even gone so far as to ask for an appointment with Monsignor Hugo Barrantes in order that the Church might be able to assist. However, the last hitch in this plan is that the voting will only stop after the courts have reviewed every signature, meanwhile discussions continue at the Commission of Human Rights, which is conducting a review of the law by a subcommittee who are studying the changes in text of the law.
Once again, those who seek equal rights in Costa Rica will have to wait and there is no telling how long it will take. For more information related to gay rights in Costa Rica, visit the organization website of “Moviemiento Diversidad”, here: http://www.gay.co.cr/diversidad/.
|Written by Cailey Halloran|
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Filed under: Costa Rica News on September 10th, 2008