Thursday, June 21, 2007

Costa Rica considers law for same-sex civil unions

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (Reuters) - Costa Rican opposition lawmakers proposed legalizing same-sex civil unions in a bill introduced on Tuesday, but said it may be difficult to pass the plan in the strongly Roman Catholic country.

Under the proposal, same-sex couples would be granted marital-type rights like bereavement leave, inheritance and power over medical decisions. It stops short of recognizing same-sex marriage or allowing adoption by same-sex couples.

"This is a bill that guarantees the respect and tolerance for couples that are of the same sex," said bill co-sponsor, Andrea Morales of the main opposition Citizens Action Party.

But the bill's author, Ana Helena Chacon, of the Social Christian Unity Party, admitted the predominantly Catholic Central American country with a record of intolerance against gays may not be ready for such a bill.

"We will find out when this bill comes up for discussion," she said.

Gay rights groups said the proposal was overdue.

"We gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders already enjoy all the duties but not all of the rights of citizenship," activist Abelardo Araya told reporters. "The country has a system of homophobia that is almost institutionalized."

No members of the governing National Liberation Party, which holds a plurality of seats and controls the agenda in the Legislative Assembly, spoke in favor of the bill at its unveiling.

Colombia and the local government in Mexico City, the Mexican capital, approved same-sex unions earlier this year.

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