Costa Rica became the first country in Central America to legalize gay marriage after its Supreme Court annulled a prohibitive ban on Tuesday. At the stroke of midnight, just as the change went into effect, same-sex couples across the region celebrated with an outpouring of emotion, with some holding long-awaited wedding festivities shown on television and on social media.
“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. And from that perspective, to defend all human rights, it is the place where this step must be understood,” the country’s President Carlos Alvarado Quesada said in a Twitter video posted on Monday.
LGBTQ rights activists fought the ban for years. In 2018, the Costa Rican Supreme Court examined the country’s stance and deemed it unconstitutional, turning the ban over to Parliament. The court told Parliament that if it didn’t amend the law within 18 months, the provision would automatically get annulled. Reuters reports that although about 20 lawmakers tried to delay the ruling, they ultimately failed, meaning the ban was lifted and Costa Rica ushered in a new era of civil rights for members of the LGBTQ community.
Alexandra Quirós and Daritza Araya became the first lesbian couple married after the ban was overturned. Footage of their ceremony, completed by an officiant wearing a mask, was broadcasted on Facebook Live. Both brides wore white and declared themselves “wife and wife” before thousands of people watching at home.
In his Twitter video, President Alvarado Quesada welcomed the ruling and seemed to preemptively explain to critics that his job was not only to defend the country’s Constitution, but also human rights and the right to freedom of expression and dignity.
“This change will cause a significant social and cultural transformation of the country,” he said. “(Gay and lesbian people) will have the rights and the same rights as any other person, couple or family in this country.”
Costa Rica is now the sixth country in Latin America to have legalized gay marriage, joining Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay and parts of Mexico.