Chamber IV of the Supreme Court of Costa Rica [official website, in Spanish] ruled 5-2 Tuesday to disallow a nationwide referendum on whether to recognize same-sex civil unions [JURIST news archive]. The referendum was to be on the ballot during the December municipal elections after qualifying for the ballot through a petition. The Supreme Tribunal of Elections [official website, in Spanish] had certified the referendum for the ballot following the petition process, citing the absence of guidance from the courts. The court found that allowing the referendum to go forward would target homosexuals for discrimination and violate their rights under international law [Tico Times report]. The court held that minority rights cannot be subject to majority approval. The court also found that the government must protect homosexual rights due to this discrimination and that the question of same-sex unions was one for the Legislative Assembly [official website, in Spanish]. The assembly has been considering a bill to legalize same-sex civil unions but would not allow same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive] or adoption by same-sex couples. In 2006, Supreme Court ruled 5-2 to uphold a law banning same-sex marriage [JURIST report], rejecting arguments that the law was unconstitutional because it violates the principles of equality and autonomy. The court said that marriage is historically understood to be limited to opposite-sex couples.
Also on Tuesday, the Supreme Court of Mexico [official website, in Spanish] ruled 9-2 that same-sex marriages performed in Mexico City must be recognized nationwide [JURIST report]. The court found that although Mexico's 31 states are not required to allow same-sex marriages to be performed in their jurisdictions, they must confer marital rights to same-sex couples married in Mexico City. The decision came one week after the court ruled 8-2 that the Mexico City's same-sex marriage law is constitutional [JURIST report]. Same-sex civil unions are currently recognized in the Mexican state of Chihuahua and Uruguay [JURIST report]. Last month, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez [official website, in Spanish] signed a same-sex marriage bill into law after the bill was approved by the legislature [JURIST reports], making Argentina the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide. Last week, a US federal judge ruled that the California state ban on same-sex marriage violates the US Constitution [JURIST report]. Same-sex marriage is currently recognized in several US jurisdictions, and nationwide in Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and South Africa [JURIST reports].