Voters may get chance to decide on same-sex unions

A campaign is being launched to hold a referendum to legalize same-sex marriages.

That was announced Thursday by an organization called Frente por los Derechos Igualitarios. The organization said it would be collecting signatures to put the question on the ballot during the march for diversity Sunday in San José.

Costa Rica has a law that allows citizens to put items on the general election ballot. The only time the relatively new law was used was when voters ratified the Free Trade Treaty with the United States in October 2007. Even then the measure was placed on the ballot by president Óscar Arias Sánchez because opponents were collecting signatures, a process that would have delayed passage.

The decision to seek legality for same-sex marriages in Costa Rica was not unexpected in light of the twin decisions by the U.S. Supreme court this week that advanced gay marriages there.

Naturally the ballot measure, if approved for a vote, will be fought aggressively by the Roman Catholic clergy and others.

The organization said it needed 160,000 signatures. The measure also must get approval from the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones.

This is one of the innumerable other grave discriminations against lesbians and homosexuals that would be corrected if they were able to marry, said the organization. A statement delivered by email added that efforts to make changes via the Asamblea Legislativa would fail.

To some extent the U.S. State Department is supporting the diversity march Sunday. Performer Mary McBride and her band will be playing around 4 p.m. in front of the headquarters of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, said the U.S. Embassy. The group is on a cultural tour to several Latin countries.

There is another performance in San Ramón Monday at 7 p.m. at the Sistema Nacional de Educación Musical and one Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Teatro Eugene O’Neill at the Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano in Los Yoses.

There also is a 4 p.m. Wednesday performance in the Centro Nacional de Cultura, the Antigua Fabrica de Licores on Avenida 7 just east of Parque España. That complex houses the Ministerio de Cultura y Juventud.

Organizers of the July 4 Independence Day Picnic also said that the group would perform there at the Cervecería Costa Rica grounds west of San José. Ms. McBride is a country rhythm and blues singer who has toured the world under the auspices of the State Department.

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