RICO’s TICO BULL – Costa Rica’s first same-sex marriage that was set for today, Saturday, following the Corte Interamerican de Derechos Humanos (Inter-American Court of Human Rights) said last week endorsed equal marriage in Costa Rica and throughout Latin America, has been put on hold.

No, not by the couple having second thoughts about tying the knot, rather by the country’s bureaucracy.

Let me explain.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, based in San Jose, ruled that all of its signatory countries must allow same-sex marriage. The Court recommended that those rights be upheld by way of temporary decrees (executive orders) while the governments amend laws.

To that end, President Luis Guillermo Solis directed government agencies to apply the ruling until the Legislative Assembly adopts new laws.

The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones (TSE), the government agency that maintains the civil registry, among other agencies, was notified of the order of the executive branch.

In consultation with the TSE this past Tuesday, Mario Arias and Roberth Castillo had the Ok to tie the knot. The date was set. Saturday, January 20. Later, after a visit to the Notary Public, in the evening there would be a party for family and friends to celebrate the union.


Civil marriages in Costa Rica requires the paperwork of a Notary Public, a person licensed by the government to perform acts in legal affairs.

While notaries play a limited role in the United States and Canada legal system, their role is key in Costa Rica and many countries of Latin America, from buying real estate, transfer of vehicle ownership, certifications, wills and trusts, among others. And getting married.

In Costa Rica, all Notaries are Attorneys, but not all Attorneys are Notaries. Lawyers can give legal advice if a legal issue arises, a Notary cannot.  Notaries (Notarios in Spanish) are regulated through the Direccion Nacional de Notariado (DNN); Lawyers (Abogados in Spanish) through the Colegio de Abogados y Abogadas de Costa Rica.

On Thursday the DNN made the decision that Notaries WILL NOT be able to register same-sex marriages. The decision was made public Friday morning.

The DNN says it would not authorize notaries to register same-sex marriages until the legislature or the courts annul laws outlawing gay marriage. “The rules that regulate marriage in Costa Rica … remain in force,” said the DNN in a statement.

Predominantly Roman Catholic Costa Rica, as several Latin American countries, still do not allow same-sex marriage. Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay and some parts of Mexico allow same-sex couples to marry.

And while the Costa Rica government is permitting the unions by decree, until the laws are changed, it appears the decree does not apply to Notaries, completely contrary to the Inter-American Court and the Presidential directive.

Of course, the laws will change. “There is nothing stopping the road to equality, but the truth is we don’t know how long it will take to get there,” said Larissa Arroyo, the attorney representing Mario and Roberth, on Friday.

All this bring us to what many of us know well about Costa Rica, “everything simple is made difficult”. That is the Costa Rican way of things!