A top court paved the way for marriage equality in more than 20 countries after ruling Latin and South American nations have no right to prevent same-sex unions.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) claimed in a Wednesday verdict that signatories must treat LGBTQ couples “without discrimination.” Based in the Costa Rican capital of San Jose, the court claimed that same-sex partners are entitled to the same property, financial, and financial benefits as opposite-sex couples.
Judges claimed that countries under its purview “must recognise and guarantee all the rights that are derived from a family bond between people of the same sex.”
The IACHR, which was established by the Organization of American States (OAS) in 1969, added that all member nations must “guarantee access to all existing forms of domestic legal systems... in order to ensure the protection of all the rights of families formed by same-sex couples without discrimination.”
Costa Rica’s federal government, which asked the court to deliberate on the subject of LGBTQ rights two years ago, welcomed the ruling. The country’s vice president, Ana Helena Chachón, pledged the decision would be implemented “in its totality.”
“The court... reminds all states on the continent, including ours, of their obligation and historical debt toward this population,” she said at a press conference.
Little will change in countries like Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Uruguay, which already recognize same-sex unions. Thirteen out of Mexico's 31 states, includingCampeche, Coahuila, and Nayarit,have moved to legalize marriage equality, although a nationwide movement for equal marriage has stalled.
But at least 15 countries in Latin and South America have no relationship recognition for LGBTQ couples at the time of writing.
In addition to Costa Rica, these countries include Barbados, Bolivia, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Suriname. Bolivia and Paraguay have explicitly prohibited same-sex couples from marrying.
This week’s ruling from the IACHR is binding on most countries which adopted the American Convention on Human Rights nearly five decades ago. The multilateral agreement was intended to “consolidate within the framework of democratic institutions, a system of personal liberty and social justice based on respect for the essential rights of man.”
Despite Costa Rica’s vow to comply with the decision, its likely to meet opposition from the Catholic Church, which wields enormous power in Latin and South America.
When Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto called for the passage of a same-sex marriage bill in the country’s legislature two years ago, it triggered a wave of protests in cities across the country in September 2016. Led by the Catholic Church, the number of marchers who came out to demonstrate against marriage equality reportedly numbered in the tens of thousands.
The IACHR recommended that signatories unprepared to pass marriage equality in their countries comply with the verdict by passing “temporary decrees” protecting the rights of same-sex couples until further legislation can be enacted.