As the clock struck 12.01 am in Costa Rica, it became the 29th country in the world and sixth in Latin America, to legalise same sex marriages. Thanks to a Supreme Court judgement 18 months ago, the Costa Rica Family Code was automatically modified to remove the impediment that came in the way of same sex marriages.

Thousands watched on national television as a special programme was telecast live to celebrate the occasion. Public ceremonies could not be held due to the COVID-19 social restrictions, but private marriage ceremonies were shown on live television.

Daritza Araya Arguedas, 24, and Alexandra Quirós Castillo, 29, dressed in white wedding gowns, were one of the first couples to be married at around 12.08 am.

In August 2018, the Supreme Court had ruled that the law which barred same sex marriages was unconstitutional. The court gave the legislators 18 months to either correct it or for the law to automatically change to allow same sex marriages. A last minute move by conservative legislators to stop the law from being changed failed.

 “Our duty is to combat all types of discrimination, whether due to disability, ethnicity, culture, religious creed, sex, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation or any other,” said President Carlos Alvarado  in a message to the nation. Alvarado had defeated his evangelical Christian rival who supported a ban on gay marriages, in the 2018 presidential elections.

Alvarado had backed same sex marriages and also participated in the 2019 San Jose pride parade. “The modification that comes into effect eliminates five words in one law. However, this change will bring about a significant social and cultural transformation in the country.”

“It allows thousands of people to marry in front of a lawyer to recognise a couple’s rights such as inheritances, pensions, medical decisions and among others. The people who will be able to access this right are not strangers. They are sons, daughters, friends, family, colleagues and coworkers. They are people who, when they decide to get married, will do so for love, stability and because they have a vision for the future. They have the same motivations that anyone could have. They do not seek to disrespect, nor attack any personal belief. They search only for the understanding and dignity that everyone deserves, no matter who they are or who they love,” Alvarado said.

Alvarado had a message of hope for the country’s LGBTQI community. “Over decades you were offended, humiliated, persecuted, but you never gave up the fight. You persisted with pride and determination. You did so with the three unstoppable forces that should guide the 21st century: liberty, equality, and democratic institutions. Thanks to your work over decades, Costa Rica recognises the rights you always deserved and returns a little of the liberty that so often was limited. You, your partners, your families, your children will have the same rights as any other person, couple or family in this country.”

Watch the first same sex wedding ceremony in Costa Rica here.

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