The Costa Rican legislature passed a bill this week that appears to legalize same-sex civil unions – although it might have been an accident.
Some lawmakers didn't realize until a day after Monday's vote that the language in a bill regarding young people may have offered a path to legalized same-sex marriage by expanding social rights for gay people and extending benefits to same-sex unions, according to the Tico Times, an English news website in San Jose.
The bill had previously defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, until a liberal lawmaker wrote into the bill new marriage language that extends “the right to recognition without discrimination contrary to human dignity.”
José María Villalta, a member of the leftist Broad Front Party who wrote the controversial language into the bill, said lawmakers simply didn't pay attention to the most up-to-date version before approving it, Tico Times reported.
"During the discussion in the first debate, we explained that the Law of Young People should be interpreted with this sense of opening to gays and no one objected."
Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla signed the bill into law Thursday, over the protests of conservatives who had called for her to veto it. Though an ardent supporter of traditional marriage in the past, Chinchilla told local reporters earlier this week she wouldn't oppose a court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, the Tico Times reported.
"We understand that the debate is over how some interpret the law and this alone is not sufficient for the executive to veto the law," Chinchilla said.
In Latin America, gay marriage is already legal in Argentina, Mexico City and some states of Brazil, and civil unions are allowed in Ecuador and Uruguay.