Costa Rica: Gay Association Fights Discrimination By Church And Government Officials

The Director of Costa Rica's gay/lesbian Asociación Triángulo Rosa, Francisco Madrigal, has filed a complaint in the Costa Rican Supreme Court's complaints division against Mr. Román Arrieta Villalobos, the Archbishop of San José, and Mr. Minor de Jesús Calvo, a parish priest. Triángulo Rosa also registered a complaint with the Defensoría de los Habitantes, the government's ombudsmen organization, against the President of Costa Rica, Dr. Miguel Ángel Rodríguez.

These complaints have been filed as a result of public statements made by Arrieta, Calvo and Rodríguez in the nation's television, radio and newspapers, with respect to a planned gay and lesbian festival, which was to have been held in Costa Rica in August, organized by a local tourism company. The festival was finally canceled because of fears of violence against participants.

On August 2nd of this year, a national religious holiday, the President of Costa Rica was quoted in the press as saying "It is important that the appropriate authorities not grant any permits for any type of public activities" associated with the gay and lesbian festival.

Román Arrieta, Archbishop of San José stated on the same day "I fervently desire that legal means be found to impede this festival from being carried out, and that our people, men as well as women, express in a dignified and civilized fashion their complete rejection of the festival." He added "It is a terrible example for our youth, and goes against our values and offends the ethical and religious feelings of a large majority of Costa Ricans."

Minor de Jesús, a parish priest who appears frequently on television, stated that "I feel sorry that in Costa Rica we open the doors for the realization of a gay/lesbian tourist congress, which is debauchery." He also criticized gay couples' relationships for going against nature, and being 'corrupt and loose.' He insisted that his listeners call the Municipality of Quepos, site of the proposed festival, to oppose it, and concluded by saying that he would like to be part of any demonstration against the activity.

Costa Rican activists fear that these individuals -- who have significant influence in the country -- create and promote a climate of hatred and discrimination in the general population. This homophobia materialized, most recently, when the inhabitants of the small rural community of Sardinal de Carrillo in the northern Pacific Province of Guanacaste heard that groups of gay tourists were coming to their area. Many feared this meant that the gay and lesbian "congress" had been moved to the Blue Bay Hotel, a local resort hotel. Between 200 and 300 residents blocked the access road to the hotel in protest.The picket, led by local priests and politicians, lasted from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Activists in Costa Rica believe that the comments of these individuals represent a violation of the following national and international instruments:

  • Article 48 of the Costa Rican General Law 7771, which bars discrimination on the basis of "sexual option."
  • Article 26 of the Political Constitution, which guarantees the right to hold peaceful, non-violent gatherings.
  • Article 33 of the Political Constitution which establishes the equality of all citizens before the law and prohibits discrimination against human dignity.
  • Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that "everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association."
  • Article 15 of the American Convention on Human Rights, which establishes "the right of peaceful assembly, without arms..."

Costa Rican activists believe that their rights and dignity have been violated. They note that, with respect to the church, this is not an isolated case. Therefore, in the case of the Archbishop and the Priest they are asking the appropriate institutions of the Costa Rican government to impose the penalties indicated by law.

With respect to their President, they are asking that the Defensoría de los Habitantes make clear to him that he cannot violate the laws of Costa Rica.

Asociación Triángulo Rosa asks that you send your letters of support to:

In the case of President Rodríguez:
Licenciada Sandra Piszk
Defensoría de los Habitantes
Apartado 1240-1007
Centro Colón Costa Rica
Re: File # 5387-22-98, oficio #318-98, oficio. # 318-98 Fax (506) 296-2512
e-mail: defensor@sol.racsa.co.cr
In case of Archbishop Arrieta:
Juzgado de Contravenciones
PO Box 62-1003
San José, Costa Rica
Re: Case # 98-0035-15-626FC
To fax or email use the number and email address of Triángulo Rosa
In the case of Father De Jesús:
Juzgado de Contravenciones
PO Box 62-1003
San José, Costa Rica
Re: Case #98-0035-14-626FC
To fax or email use the number and email address of Triángulo Rosa

Please send copies of all letters to:

Asociación Triángulo Rosa
Apartado 1619-4050
Alajuela, Costa Rica
Tel: 506-258-0214
Fax: 506-258-0635
e-mail: atrirosa@sol.racsa.co.cr