Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla has signed legislation that appears to legalize common-law same-sex marriages—that apparently was "accidentally" approved by conservative lawmakers, reports the New York Times. The conservative legislators who voted for the bill later demanded that Chinchilla veto it—which she refused.
President Laura Chinchilla late Thursday signed the bill governing social services and marriage regulations for young people. The mostly conservative members of Congress did not notice that the final version of the bill had changed earlier language that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
After realizing they had approved a bill that “confers social rights and benefits of a civil union, free from discrimination,” the lawmakers asked Ms. Chinchilla to veto the new law. She has refused.
The law ... could establish common-law marriages for gay and lesbian couples in Costa Rica, reported the daily La Nación . Communications Minister Carlos Roverssi confirmed that the law had been signed and sent for publication in La Gaceta, the government newspaper that is the final step in the bill’s journey to becoming a law.
Common-law marriage in Costa Rica is available to people who have been together for at least three years. It guarantees partners the rights to inheritance, to social security and public insurance benefits and to visit the other person in the hospital.
Chinchilla said in May 2011 that she is "a supporter of traditional marriage" but would not oppose a court ruling that legalizes same-sex marriage or civil unions.
Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain and Sweden mandate marriage equality. Brazil, Mexico and the United States allow equal marriage in certain states.
In August 2010, the highest court in Costa Rica rejected a national referendum on whether the country should grant same-sex couples the right to civil unions. "Minority rights ... cannot be subject to a referendum process where majorities are needed," the court ruled. Too bad we haven't realized that yet in the United States.