Respect Equality

Costa Rica becomes first country in Central America to legalize same-sex marriage

Same-sex newlyweds Alexandra Quiros (L) and Dunia Araya (R) kiss during their wedding in Heredia, Costa Rica, on May 26, 2020 after the country legalized same-sex marriage.  Ezequiel Becerra/AFP via Getty Images

Story at a glance

  • A ruling by Costa Rica’s constitutional court made same-sex marriage legal Monday night.
  • Costa Rica joins five other Latin American countries in legalizing same-sex marriage.
  • The country’s decision to support same-sex marriage helps to pave the way for further same-sex marriage legalization in the region.

Midnight on Monday, a ban on same-sex marriage was lifted in Costa Rica, making it the first country in Central America to legalize gay marriage. Monday night’s historic events follow the nation’s constitutional court ruling back in August 2018, decreeing that same-sex marriage was unconstitutional and giving parliament 18 months to legislate or the provision would be automatically nullified, which is what happened Monday at midnight.

Costa Rica’s president Carlos Alvarado Quesada applauded the change, saying the country was celebrating “freedom, equality, and democratic institutions.” 

Shortly after the midnight ruling went into effect Quesada tweeted: “Empathy and love should from now on be the guiding principles which will allow us to move forward.”

Quesada, who promised during his campaign to legalize same-sex marriage, was elected in 2018 — the same year Costa Rica elected the country’s first openly gay congressman, Enrique Sanchez. 

Same-sex couples held wedding ceremonies as soon as the rule went into effect, and though activists’ plans for a wider national celebration were postponed due to the coronavirus, the wedding ceremony of same-sex couple Alexandra Quiros and Dunia Araya was televised in a late-night broadcast. Rainbow rose petals were thrown by cheering guests as the brides kissed after exchanging vows.

The changes went into effect despite the efforts of more than 20 legislators who tried to delay the marriage ruling by 18 months, but the measure failed. Considerable opposition from religious groups also can’t negate the fact that the LGBTQ+ communities in Latin America are beginning to grow, with gay marriage becoming increasingly acceptable in the region. 

In fact, Costa Rica joins five other countries in Latin America that now allow same-sex couples to marry: Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay and parts of Mexico. It is the 28th United Nations member state to recognize same-sex marriage.

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the Costa Rican United Nations Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, called the ruling “an extraordinary moment of celebration and gratitude to the work of so many activists, and of quiet reflection of the loves of those who lived without seeing this moment.”