In another international victory for gay rights advocates, Costa Rica’s highest court on Tuesday rejected a Catholic Church-supported national vote on whether the country should grant same-sex couples the right to civil unions in the Central American country.
The Supreme Court ruled that the rights of minorities could not be determined by a popular vote and that the issue should be decided by the country’s lawmakers.
“Minority rights that are derived from claims against the majority cannot be subject to a referendum process where majorities are needed,” the court said in a statement.
The vote sought to ask Costa Ricans whether the Central American nation should grant same-sex couples some of the rights of married couples, such as in inheritance, health insurance benefits and the right to family visits in case of hospitalization.
Conservative groups linked to religious organizations reportedly gathered 150,000 signatures in favor of the referendum.
The court’s 5-2 decision said it considers homosexuals a group that is at a disadvantage and the target for discrimination, requiring government authorities to protect their rights.
The ruling in Costa Rica is the third such court decision in a week favoring gays and lesbians in the Americas.
Last week, a U.S. District Court Judge overturned Proposition 8, Californina’s voter-approved ban on gay marriage.
The following day, the Mexico Supreme Court upheld the landmark law permitting same-sex marriages in Mexico City; earlier today, that same court ordered those marriages recognized in all 31 Mexican states.
On July 15, Argentina became the first Latin America country to legalize gay marriage.