Costa Rica: Costa Rican Victory!

Costa Rica's Defensor de los Habitantes has issued a recommendation that the Costa Rican government begin granting legal recognition to gay and lesbian organizations.

The Defensor, who is appointed by Congress, receives complaints from citizens, determines whether the government agency in question has violated the law, and then issues recommendations to the government outlining the steps that must be taken. The government is required to report back to the Defensor on what actions have been taken to remedy the situation, and although the recommendations are not legally binding, they are highly influential.

The March 10th recommendation is the result of a complaint filed by the San Jose gay group Triangulo Rosa. Triangulo Rosa first applied to the Registro Civil for legal status as a non-governmental organization in April 1995 under the name Abraxas. The registry rejected the application on the basis of Abraxas's goal of struggling "against the social discrimination leveled against people with homosexual orientations." The registry eventually bowed to international pressure and granted a charter to the group under the new name Triangulo Rosa.

The Defensor's recommendation states that the original decision by the Registro Civil to deny legal recognition to the group was in violation of the Costa Rican Constitution, which guarantees the right of association to all citizens. This finding has important implications not only for the registration of gay and lesbian organizations but for the struggle against discrimination based on sexual orientation in many areas of Costa Rican life.