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Recognition of Same-Sex Marriage in Costa Rica Divides Presidential Elections

Costa Rica will undergo a second round of presidential elections after neither candidate managed to amass 40% of the votes needed to win the election in the first round.

Fabricio Alvarado Muñoz and Carlos Alvarado Quesada are the two leading candidates in what many news outlets describe as a “tight presidential race,” one in which same-sex marriage has taken center stage.

Although both candidates share the same last name, they have no familial relation. Muñoz, head of the National Restoration Party, is an evangelical pastor, a former TV newscaster and member of the Protestant Pentecostal movement.

Fabricio Alvarado Muñoz, Source:  Reuters/ BBC

Fabricio Alvarado Muñoz, Source: Reuters/ BBC

His opponent, Quesada, is a member of the Citizens’ Action Party (CAP)  and served as Minister of Labor and Security under the incumbent government. CAP has been in power since 2014.

Alvarado Quesada’s campaign has focused on “reining in the deficit, improving education, and maintaining ecological standards.”

Political observers suggest that the incumbent government is tainted by corruption scandals, which may affect the outcome of the election.

Carlos Alvarado Quesada, Source:  Reuters/ BBC

Carlos Alvarado Quesada, Source: Reuters/ BBC

The issue of same-sex marriage has galvanized the media and garnered a large amount of attention, both in Costa Rica and abroad.

In January 2018, The Inter-American Court of Human Rights based in Costa Rica ruled that all countries which have signed the American Convention on Human Rights must recognize same-sex marriage. Costa Rica became a signatory to the convention on Nov. 22, 1969.

Muñoz opposed the ruling of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, holding true to his more traditional values. He has since vowed to fight against the “secular state” and “gender ideology”.

Many are not surprised that Quesada, unlike his opponent, decided to support the ruling. Quesada was minister to President Solís, whose administration was known to openly support gay rights.

Polls suggest a very close race between the two candidates. It is difficult to discern to what extent the issue of same-sex marriage will affect the elections as opposed to other pressing issues, and whether or not it will lead to the legalization of same-sex marriage.

“It’s a statistical dead heat,”  Ludovico Feoli, the director of the Center for Inter-American Policy told the Washington Post in an interview that “ it will come down to the last minute.”

Update: Carlos Alvarado Quesada becomes 48th president of Costa Rica in a landslide victory, winning 61% of the vote while his rival won 39%.