President Chinchilla Calls for Civil Unions

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But tells deputies in her party they shouldn’t feel pressured to vote for it.

More mixed news out of Latin America this week, as the administration of Costa Rica’s fashionably-named president, Laura Chinchilla, sends a civil unions bill to the Legislative Assembly.

Despite several favorable circumstances, the bill’s future is far from certain. Costa Rica has a history as Central America’s most progressive country, and Chinchilla’s party, the democratic-socialist National Liberation Party (PLN) holds a plurality in the Assembly. However, the Catholic Church has promised a fierce opposition, and Chinchilla herself has a checkered past walking the line between the Church and questions of equality.

 As a candidate, Chinchilla explicitly opposed marriage equality and the secularization of the State, which is officially Catholic. After her election, she reiterated that LGBT rights would not be a priority, and a similar attempt at civil unions died early in her presidency, in August 2010.

Since August of this year, however, her administration has pushed for the bill, using executive power to place it on the Assembly’s agenda during a special session. Minister of the Presidency, Carlos Ricardo Benavides, stated that support for the bill is “most pertinent.”

Now that it’s in the hands of the Assembly, Chinchilla is sending more mixed signals. A member of her government stated, “The administration fulfilled its commitment,” adding, “We respect the opinion of each deputy on this topic,” which hardly seems like a ringing endorsement.

Parliamentary procedures stopped the debate almost as soon as it began. As Luis Fishman, of the center-right Social Christian Unity Party “passionately” argued for open minds and equal rights (I know, right?), three minority parties (Libertarians and two Evangelicals) called a quick succession of 15 minute breaks. At which point the president of the Assembly gave up and called it a day.

Meanwhile, Chinchilla is spending the rest of the week in Tikal, Guatemala, celebrating the end of the Mayan b’aktun. Perhaps hoping that the world will end before she has to talk about LGBT rights again.

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