Same-Sex Marriage in Latin America: Human Rights Court Says Yes!

Same-Sex Marriage in Latin America: Human Rights Court Says Yes! January 17, 2018

Latin American Human Rights Court issues a stunning ruling on same-sex marriage.


Support for gay marriage has been growing in many countries of the world, particularly in the Americas, in Europe, and in all large predominately English-speaking countries except Northern Ireland.

The first country to legalize such marriages was the Netherlands in 2001.

In the U.S., individual states attained marriage equality, one at a time, starting with Massachusetts in 2004. Eleven years later, 38 states had followed suit. Then in mid-2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in the case Obergefell v. Hodges which legalized gay marriage in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and all but one U.S. territory.

The exception remains American Samoa where most of the population are American residents, not American citizens. Thus the Supreme Court ruling does not necessarily apply there.

Most of the other countries in the world that have legalized same-sex marriage have done so by a federal law or a referendum.

In Latin America, gay marriage was already available in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay, and in some Mexican states by the end of 2017.

Court ruling

On January 9, 2018, an unprecedented event happened. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which is located Costa Rica in Central America, issued a ruling stating that countries in the region should legalize gay marriage!

That would be a very difficult ruling for many states to implement because of heavy public opposition.

The largest faith groups throughout Latin America are Roman Catholicism and evangelical Protestantism. Both groups are strongly opposed to same-sex marriage.

The court ruling was issued in response to a petition from the government of Costa Rica that was written by its president Luis Guillermo Solis. It was submitted two years before the ruling.

Ana Helena Chacon, the vice president of Costa Rica, commented:

“The court … reminds all states on the continent, including ours, of their obligation and historical debt toward this population.”

The wide-ranging court ruling states that governments::

“… must recognize and guarantee all the rights that are derived from a family bond between people of the same sex … [and] 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..”

They noted that many countries in the region are experiencing strong opposition to the concept of marriage equality. The court recommends that their governments pass temporary decrees until new legislation is implemented. The petition also asked the human rights court to deliver an opinion concerning transgender persons. The latter from approximately 0.6% of the population in the U.S. and probably a similar percentage throughout the rest of North, Central, and South America.

Transgender persons’ current gender identity differs from their birth-identified sex. Many transgender persons state that they have a female brain in a male body, or vice-versa.

A minority of transgender persons do not identify as either male or female or identify as being of both genders.

The petition from Costa Rica asked whether transgender persons should be able to change their name on their identity documents to match their current gender identity. The court ruled that governments should allow this.

The court’s ruling is only binding on the countries who have signed the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights, which became effective during 1978-JUL. Wikipedia states that:

” As of 2013, 25 of the 35 OAS’s member states have ratified the Convention, while two have withdrawn, leaving 23 current signatories.”

Of these, Barbados, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominical Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Suriname, had not legalized same-sex marriages at the time that the court issued its ruling. These countries may have only two ethical options: to implement marriage equality or to withdraw from the Convention.

The preamble to the Convention states that the purpose of the Convention is to:

“… consolidate in this hemisphere, within the framework of democratic institutions, a system of personal liberty and social justice based on respect for the essential rights of man.”

Article 15 of the Convention prohibits:

“… any propaganda for war and any advocacy of national, racial, or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to lawless violence or to any other similar action against any person on any grounds including those of race, color, religion, language, or national origin.”

Some Reactions:

Judge Vio Grossi of the Court partially dissented, saying:

“Legislation recognizing same-sex unions cannot be imposed upon member states through the judicial process, much less so through an advisory opinion, which is not binding even on the party requesting the opinion, and much less upon the other member states. … [There is] no source of international law that provides the necessary recognition of such [homosexual and transgender] rights.”

Life Site News, a conservative Christian website, published a news article titled: “International court orders 16 countries to ignore their laws and allow gay ‘marriage’.”

As is still common among many conservative groups, they place the word “marriage” in quotation marks when referring to same-sex marriages. They appear to do this because they do not recognizes such marriages as valid.

Claire Cretien, writing for Life Site News, said:

“In what one expert called the ‘most bold exercise in judicial tyranny imaginable,’ an international human rights court has ordered that 16 countries ignore their own laws and recognize same-sex ‘marriage’ and transgenderism.”

“Gay Star News called it the “biggest marriage equality court order in history.”

Gualberto Garcia Jones, executive director of International Human Rights Group, said:

“Costa Rican officials asked for clarification on what process [was] required to legally change the name of a gender confused person and the rights to property of homosexual partners under the Convention,. Instead of answering the questions asked, the court attempted to issue a unilateral ruling that homosexual marriage with adoption rights is required by the American Convention on Human Rights. [The Court} overreached its jurisdiction in an unprecedented manner … [delegating] to itself the authority to overrule national constitutions in order to implement its opinions.”


Pretel E.A., et al.. 2018. Reuters. Latin American human rights court urges same-sex marriage legalization.

BBC. 2018. Inter-American Human Rights Court backs same-sex marriage.

Wikipedia. 2018. American Convention on Human Rights.

ClaireCretien, “International court orders 16 countries to ignore their laws and allow gay ‘marriage’,” Life Site News, 2018-JAN-16, at:

The views presented on this blog are an extension of those presented on the Religious Tolerance website. The purpose of all articles is to compare the full range of beliefs and actions by people who are members of various faith groups within Christianity and other world religions, individuals who are NOT Affiliated with a faith group (NOTAs), and secularists.

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