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Same-sex couples rush to the altar in Costa Rica


Alexandra Quiros Castillo, center, and Daritza Araya Arguedas, right, stand before notary Ana Cecilia Castro Calzada during their wedding in Heredia, Costa Rica, on May 26. Photo: Ezequiel Becerra/AFP
Alexandra Quiros Castillo, center, and Daritza Araya Arguedas, right, stand before notary Ana Cecilia Castro Calzada during their wedding in Heredia, Costa Rica, on May 26. Photo: Ezequiel Becerra/AFP   

Eight minutes after midnight on May 26 Alexandra Quirós Castillo and Daritza Araya Arguedas kissed and became Costa Rica's first same-sex couple to legally marry.

Costa Rica is the sixth Latin American country to grant marriage equality, and the first in Central America.

Same-sex marriage is legal in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Uruguay, along with parts of Mexico.

Dressed in white and holding bouquets of flowers, Castillo, 29, and university student, and Arguedas, 24, a judicial technician, wed as thousands of people watched via public television and a livestream on social media.

The women's wedding ceremony was conducted in the presence of notary public Ana Cecilia Castro Calzada in San Isidro de Heredia, reported Q Costa Rica.

The wedding was held in compliance with the country's rules and restrictions due to the global novel coronavirus pandemic.

Leading up to the wedding, a special three-hour documentary about Costa Rica's marriage equality battle was aired on public television.

The Civil Registry already had 55 requests for same-sex marriage registrations. According to Q Costa Rica, some couples married abroad months ago.

Among them, gay activist lawyer Marco Castillo and his boyfriend, Rodrigo Campos, who also married in the early morning hours after the new law came into effect, reported Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"It's a stepping stone toward equality that makes us keep up the fight for respect that those of us with a different sexual orientation deserve," Castillo told the media at the registry office in the country's capital city, San Jose, after they signed their marriage certificate and exchanged rings.

Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada tweeted the day before the weddings were to commence that, "This change will cause a significant social and cultural transformation of the country."

United Nations Independent Expert on SOGI Victor Madrigal-Borloz praised his home country's marriage equality victory.

"An extraordinary moment of celebration and gratitude to the work of so many activists and a quiet reflection of the lives of those who lived without seeing this moment," he wrote on Twitter.

Margarita Salas, an LGBT+ rights campaigner in Costa Rica and president of the VAMOS political party, added that the new law offered LGBT couples "peace of mind."

Not everyone is ready for marriage equality in Costa Rica.

Last month, 20 conservative lawmakers in Costa Rica's Assembly attempted to halt the weddings by seeking an indefinite postponement, claiming they needed more time to legislate same-sex marriage. They were backed by Assembly President Eduardo Cruickshank of the evangelical National Restoration Party.

Cruickshank said he was "committed to defending the family as established and pleases our Heavenly Father."

Gia Miranda, executive director of Si Acepto Costa Rica ("Yes I accept") the country's marriage equality campaign, responded to conservative legislators' actions and the groundbreaking moment.

"A legal change does not imply that there is a social change, but it is an enormous advance, a wonderful milestone in the history of Costa Rica," she told Q Costa Rica.

Road to the altar
Same-sex marriage became a pivotal campaign issue that led to a runoff election between center-left Citizens' Action Party candidate Alvarado Quesada and conservative candidate Fabricio Alvarado, an evangelical Christian, in 2018. The two men aren't related.

The runoff election followed on the heels of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights' decision on same-sex marriage and gender identity rights. The court ruled for Costa Rica, along with other Latin American and Caribbean countries, to legally recognize same-sex couples' relationships either by granting marriage or civil unions and gender identity protections if laws weren't already in place.

Quesada, a former cabinet minister for former President Luis Guillermo Solis, and the president, a member of the same party, both supported same-sex marriage and LGBT rights.

Solis attempted to pass civil unions and same-sex marriage legislation through the country's legislative assembly, but the bills failed. Solis then brought the country's same-sex marriage case to the IACHR in 2016, which led to the court's 2018 landmark ruling.

Marriage equality was a key platform during Quesada's campaign.

Same-sex marriage remained legally blocked by the ban, despite the court ruling. The country's Superior Notarial Council wouldn't issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples until the marriage ban was lifted by the country's constitutional court or legislative assembly.

Costa Rica's constitutional court struck down the ban in August 2018 and the court ordered lawmakers to legalize same-sex marriage within 18 months or it would automatically become law in November that year.

Legislators failed to act by the expiration date paving the way for same-sex weddings to begin last month.

To watch the wedding ceremony, visit http://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=574179056809712.

Hungarian trans activists file constitutional complaint
Hungarian transgender activists launched a legal battle against Hungary's new law banning gender recognition.

Hungarian President Janos Ader signed the law May 28, following the Central European country's parliament passing the amended Registry Act that restricts gender identity to being assigned at birth.

The Transvanilla Transgender Association filed a constitutional complaint with Hungary's Constitutional Court on behalf of two unidentified transgender people impacted by the new law, according to a May 29 news release from the organization.

The organization declared the law unconstitutional and requested it to be annulled.

According to the release, the complaint is in addition to a case with 23 individual applicants being examined by the European Court of Human Rights.

French village elects transgender mayor
A small French village near the border of Belgium made history by voting for the country's first transgender mayor.

Marie Cau, 55, won the mayoral seat of Tilloy-lez-Marchiennes by a nearly unanimous vote of the town's 550 residents in March's local elections.

She campaigned on social and environmental policies, reported the Agence France-Presse.

Cau, who transitioned 15 years ago and has resided in the village for 20 years, is a business manager and an expert in sustainability and agriculture, reported AFP.

The novel coronavirus pandemic slowed her receipt of the honorary sash of the office from the usual five days to two months, reported Republic World.

Managing the pandemic in Tilloy-lez-Marchiennes is her first action of business for the town that has an almost non-existent budget.

Malaysia's top court green-lights landmark anti-gay law challenge
The Federal Court of Malaysia on May 27 gave a green light for a Muslim man's challenge to the country's anti-gay Islamist law that criminalizes homosexuality.

The case was allowed to proceed May 14, but it wasn't made public until last week.

The test case mounted by a 30-something man, who's identity is being protected by his lawyer for his client's privacy, was filed following his 2018 arrest for allegedly attempting to proposition gay sex. The man denies the charges against him, reported Reuters.

He was among the 11 men arrested during a police raid of a party at a private residence in Selangor.

Five others pleaded guilty and were sentenced to jail, caning, and fines last year.

"This will be the first," the man's lawyer, Surendra Ananth, told the media outlet by phone.

The man claims that the central Selangor state, where he was arrested, had no power to enforce the Islamic ban when its already a crime under Malaysia's civil laws, reported Reuters.

LGBTIQ+ Network, a Malaysian coalition of 12 LGBT+ rights groups, praised the court's decision and expressed hope that it would limit harassment against the LGBT community.

Homosexuality is illegal in the Muslim-majority country under the British colonial-era anti-sodomy laws 377A and 377B. Individuals convicted under the law could be sentenced up to 20 years in jail under the civil penal code.

In 2018, two women were publicly caned for allegedly "attempting lesbian sex" under the Islamist laws in the east coast state of Terengganu. That same year, a transgender woman was attacked.

Malaysia has 13 states that operate on a dual-track legal system governing Muslims under Islamist laws and other citizens under the country's civil laws.

Surendra expects the court to hear arguments by the end of the year.

"[If we win], the state law will be struck down and the criminal charges in the Sharia court should be dropped," he told Reuters, adding he hopes the case will set a precedent for other Malaysian states with similar laws.

The Selangor state's legal adviser, Masri Mohd Daud, didn't respond to the media outlet's request for comment.

HRW calls for Turkmenistan to release suspected gay men
A high-profile Turkmenistani actor, along with nearly a dozen other men, was sentenced to two years in prison for gay sex last month.

The actor, identified in court documents as G.S., was sentenced for committing sodomy.

G.S., along with his unidentified boyfriend, and the other men were arrested sometime in mid-March, reported Turkmen News on April 15.

Some men secured their release, reported Human Rights Watch.

The celebrity and some other men known in the entertainment and modeling industries were sentenced May 7, according to the organization.

Turkmen News editors withheld publishing at least three men's names, including, G.S., for "ethical reasons," reported the local newspaper.

The news became public outside of the Central Asian country due to HRW's May 26 news release.

According to the organization, Turkmenistan is one of 69 countries in the world that criminalizes homosexuality. Under Turkmenistani anti-sodomy law, Article 135 of the criminal code, men caught having sex with other men face up to two years in prison. Repeat offenders face up to 10 years in prison.

Anal examinations are something conducted by medical staff in collaboration with law enforcement officials on men charged with sodomy, reported HRW. The Turkmen News corroborated that the procedure is conducted in instances when known suspected gay and bisexual men in an individual's phone contacts can't be called for interrogation.

HRW called the law "blatantly discriminatory" and pointed out that it violated Turkmenistan's international rights obligations, along with enabling "police to subject gay and bisexual men to harassment, including with the purpose of extortion, humiliation, and abuse."

The organization noted the United Nations Human Rights Committee urged the Central Asian country's government to repeal criminalization of consensual same-sex relationships, calling the law "unjustifiable," in 2017, according to HRW's release.

But authorities have rejected the international criticism based on the country's criminalization of homosexuality, reported the Turkmen News.

HRW called upon the Turkmenistan government to drop all charges against the men and release them.

Got international LGBT news tips? Call or send them to Heather Cassell at WhatsApp: 415-517-7239, or Skype: heather.cassell, or oitwnews@gmail.com

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