Same sex marriage a key issue as Costa Ricans go to polls

By , on February 4, 2018


A recent survey showed that more than a third of likely voters were undecided.  (Pixabay photo)
A recent survey showed that more than a third of likely voters were undecided. (Pixabay photo)

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica— Costa Ricans vote Sunday in a presidential race that has been turned on its ear by an international court ruling saying the country should let same-sex couples get married.

Evangelical candidate Fabricio Alvarado recently vaulted into first place in the polls after he took a strong stance against gay marriage, which about two-thirds of Costa Ricans also oppose.

His closest rivals are agri-businessman Antonio Alvarez of the opposition National Liberation Party and Carlos Alvarado of the governing Citizens’ Action Party.

A recent survey showed that more than a third of likely voters were undecided. If no candidate gets 40 per cent or more, the top two finishers advance to an April 1 runoff.

The January decision by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has come to play a central role in the campaign. It also ordered the country to grant same-sex couples rights such the ability to inherit estates and adopt children.

Political analyst Francisco Barahona told The Associated Press that it came as an “external shock” for Costa Rica, a majority Roman Catholic nation.

Fabricio Alvarado, a 43-year-old journalist, preacher and Christian singer, called the ruling a “sovereign violation” and saw his support balloon in the polls as socially conservative voters gravitated to that message.

Carlos Alvarado no relation is the only major candidate to openly back gay marriage and has picked up some support recently from socially liberal voters. A 38-year-old also trained as a journalist, he got his start in politics as communications director for Citizens’ Action and also was labour minister under current President Luis Guillermo Solis.

Alvarez, a two-time president of the Legislative Assembly and a Cabinet minister under the first presidency of Oscar Arias in 1986-1990, says he opposes gay marriage but backs recognizing certain other rights for gay couples.

Voters will also be selecting the 57 delegates that make up the Assembly.