It was March 4, 2018. Support for Costa Rica’s presidential candidates was divided among those in favor of gay marriage and those who defended “the traditional family.” In Playa Garza, Guanacaste, 80 people gathered to celebrate Alberto Pozo and Brett Danielson’s love in a symbolic wedding.
Guests were told the exact location of the wedding the day of the event. The couple waited until then to announce it because they were afraid the community would find out about the activity and organize a protest against these types of unions.
Alberto would have liked society to recognize his love. He would have liked to legalize his marriage in the country where he was born. But in order to do so, he must wait 18 more months.
As of today, Congress has a year and a half to draft regulations or change legislation so that Albert and Brett can enjoy this right, according to an August 8 ruling by the Supreme Court.
The court considers these types of unions legal and believes they don’t violate Costa Rica’s constitution. Still, they passed the baton to Congress, which must deliver on the issue.
If lawmakers don’t agree on legislation before 18 months passes, the law prohibiting gay marriage will be repealed and same-sex marriage will be legal, according to Fernando Castillo, president of the Supreme Court. The day that Alberto and many other couples have been waiting decades for will arrive.
“If 18 months go by and Congress doesn’t pass regulations, article 14, paragraph 6 of the Family Code [which says that “marriage between persons of the same sex is legally impossible] will be eliminated,” Castillo told The Voice of Guanacaste.
But what will happen in Congress is unclear.
“Congressional topics are issues that they must resolve. The Supreme Court doesn’t have jurisdiction there,” added the magistrate. “They have their own dynamic and I can’t speculate on the future. The court stated its position and they (the lawmakers) will have to evaluate what the court ruled within their own purview. The court’s job was done yesterday (August 8).”
Even without a ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, Guanacaste has been one of the LGBT community’s favorite destinations for celebrating symbolic unions like that of Alberto and Brett.
In their case, they decided to celebrate their marriage in the same spot where they got engaged (Playa Garza in Nosara), the same place where they hope to one day live without getting nasty looks or having to think twice before holding hands.
According to Costa Rica’s Chamber of Diverse Commerce, 18 percent of the weddings held in the country are symbolic LGBT weddings, half of which are held in the province.
For Julio César Calvo, president of the chamber, the number could grow when the country regulates same-sex marriage and have a positive impact on tourism in Guanacaste.
“The majority of Ticos (of the LGBT population) that want to get married do it in other countries like Canada, the United States, Mexico, Colombia or Argentina,” Calvo said. “Imagine saying, ‘I’m going to Guanacaste to get married.’ In other countries they leave profits of $30,000-40,000.”
Alberto and Brett chose a private house on the beach to hold their symbolic ceremony. Options are still limited. According to Calvo, hotel chains are the ones that take the greatest advantage of symbolic weddings since local hotels, for the most part, aren’t inclusive.
“It’s a niche that would help locals solve the low tourist season problem,” the president of the chamber said. “The LGBT tourist travels more than three times per year because their schedules and budgets allow for it. Hotel chains take advantage of this market because of their inclusive policies. The local hotels still show a level of unawareness and fear losing other customers.”
The chamber says there are 12 inclusive hotels in the province, almost all of which belong to international chains like Westin, Marriott and Andaz Papagayo.
Reporter Noelia Esquivel contributed to this report