Costa Rica Supreme Court rules gay marriage ban unconstitutional

Current laws in Costa Rica that prohibit gay marriage have been struck down in a court ruling. Despite the court's decision, same-sex couples in Costa Rica may have to wait over a year to get married.

In a decision hailed by LGBT advocates and scorned by evangelical lawmakers, Costa Rica's Supreme Court found that the country's laws banning same sex marriage were unconstitutional.

The court, which voted on the measure on Wednesday night, said that the laws were discriminatory and must be immediately changed.

Magistrate Fernando Castillo told reporters that the ban was inconsistent with an opinion issued in January by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that said homosexual couples must have the same rights to marry as heterosexual couples.

Read more: Germans celebrate first gay marriages

The Supreme Court gave Costa Rican lawmakers 18 months to implement laws lifting the ban. Should they fail to meet the deadline, gay marriage will automatically become legal.

Evangelicals push back against order

Costa Rica's President Carlos Alvarado welcomed the Supreme Court's order.

"We continue to deploy actions that guarantee no person will face discrimination for their sexual orientation or gender identity, and that the state's protection be given to all families under equal conditions," he wrote on Twitter.

Enrique Sanchez, the country's first openly gay member of the legislature, said he thinks lawmakers won't be able to agree on a new law within the next year and a half.

"What I see happening is that the norm [the gay-marriage ban] will simply be declared unconstitutional in 18 months' time," Sanchez said.

The court ruling didn't sit well with some evangelical politicians, with lawmaker Jonathan Prendas saying that the court's decision "put a gun to our head" to change the law.

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Costa Rica, which has a strong Catholic tradition, has seen a rise in evangelical churches in recent decades. Evangelical lawmakers currently fill 14 of the Legislative Assembly's 57 seats. Gay marriage was a highly contested issue during the country's presidential election in April this year.

rs/rt (AP, AFP)

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2001, The Netherlands

The Netherlands was the first country in the world to permit same-sex marriages after the Dutch parliament voted for legalization in 2000. The mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen, wedded the first four same-sex couples at midnight on April 1, 2001 when the legislation came into effect. The new law also allowed same-sex couples to adopt children.

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2003, Belgium

The Netherlands' neighbor, Belgium, followed the Dutch lead and legalized same-sex marriage two years later. The law gave same-sex partners many of the rights of their heterosexual counterparts. But unlike the Dutch, the Belgians did not initially allow same-sex couples to adopt children. The Belgian parliament passed a bill granting them that right three years later.

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2010, Argentina

Argentina became the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriages when its Senate voted 33 to 27 in favor of it in July 2010. Argentina thereby became the tenth country in the world to permit gay and lesbian marriages. The South American country was not the only one to do so in 2010. Earlier in the year, Portugal and Iceland also passed same-sex marriage legislation.

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2012, Denmark

Denmark's parliament overwhelmingly voted in favor of legalization in June 2012. The small Scandinavian country had made headlines before when it was the first country in the world to recognize civil partnerships for gay and lesbian couples in 1989. Same-sex couples had also enjoyed the right to adopt children since 2009.

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2013, New Zealand

New Zealand became the 15th country worldwide and the first Asia-Pacific country to allow gay and lesbian marriages in 2013. The first couples were married on August 19. Lynley Bendall (left) and Ally Wanik (right) were among them when they exchanged vows on board an Air New Zealand flight from Queenstown to Auckland. France legalized same-sex marriage the same year.

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2015, Ireland

Ireland made headlines in May 2015 when it became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage through a referendum. Thousands of people celebrated in the streets of Dublin as the results came in showing almost two-thirds of voters opting for the measure.

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2015, USA

The White House was alight in the colors of the rainbow flag on June 26, 2015. Earlier, the US Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that the constitution guaranteed marriage equality, a verdict that paved the way for same-sex couples to be married across the country. The decision came 12 years after the Supreme Court ruled that laws criminalizing gay sex were unconstitutional.

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2017, Germany

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2017 - 2018, Australia

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