A Constitutional Break-Through for Gay Rights in Costa Rica

The Latin American News Dispatch Blog has reported that the Supreme Court of Costa Rica has issued its first decision in a gay rights case, ruling that Article 66 of Costa Rica's Technical Penitentiary Regulations, which authorizes "intimate visits" for inmates with visitors of the opposite sex, must be construed to allow intimate visits without regard for the sex of the visitor.  The Blog quotes a press release from the court stating, "This Court considers that [the regulation] contradicts, among other things, the principles of equality and human dignity."

Public Defender Natalia Gamboa filed a challenge to the restriction on behalf of Manual Morales Urbina, an inmate at the San Sebastian Admissions Unit, whose bid for an "intimate visit" with a same-sex partner had been denied.  The Attorney General of Costa Rica supported Urbina's suit.  Attorney General Ana Lorena Brenes stated, "There's no objective or just reason to discriminate against homosexual prisoners, using sexual preference as the only criterion." 

According to a local radio report, this was the first time that the Constitutional Division of the Supreme Court has declared any national law or regulation to be in violation of the constitutional right of equality and human dignity.  Gay activists in Costa Rica expressed hope that the ruling signaled that the court would be receptive to other challenges to discriminatory laws, and most particularly to Family Code provisions that exclude same-sex couples from the right to marry.

The blog report is available on the Westlaw service at 2011 WLNR 20980104 (Oct. 13, 2011).

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