On Tuesday January 9, the Inter-American Court Of Human Rights ruled that all states who are signatories to the American Convention On Human Rights 1969 must legislate marriage equality.
The ruling was handed down in response to a request by Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís. Two years ago he asked the court to provide an opinion on whether the country needs to extend property rights to same-sex couples and whether the country must allow transgender people to change their names on identity documents. The court has ruled that it does.
The court ruling is binding and states that governments "must recognise and guarantee all the rights that are derived from a family bond between people of the same sex."
The judges found that it is inadmissible and discriminatory for a separate legal provision to be established just for same-sex marriages.
Countries must “guarantee access to all existing forms of domestic legal systems, including the right to marriage, in order to ensure the protection of all the rights of families formed by same-sex couples without discrimination.”
The judges noted that there may be deep religious opposition to marriage equality from Catholic countries, but stated that “in democratic societies, there should exist mutually peaceful coexistence between the secular and the religious.” The court has recommended that governments pass temporary decrees until the new legislation can be bought in.
The 20 countries who have ratified the American Convention On Human Rights, also known as the Pact of San José, are Argentina, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Suriname, and Uruguay.
Only a few of those countries, like Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay, and some parts of Mexico already have marriage equality. Some countries, like Chile and Ecuador have civil unions, but many places do not recognise same-sex marriages at all.
Costa Rica, which has promised to deliver LGBT rights, is celebrating the landmark ruling, with people partying into the night. Vice President Ana Helena Chacón said at a press conference: “Today is an historic day, a day of light. The Inter-American Court vindicates the rights of LGBTI people under the American Convention, and reminds all the States of their responsibility and historical moral obligation to this population.”