Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

Overcoming the Limits of Legal Opportunity Structures: LGBT Rights’ Divergent Paths in Costa Rica and Colombia

  • Bruce M. Wilson (a1) and Camila Gianella-Malca (a2)

Abstract

Costa Rica and Colombia, two of the earliest Latin American countries to protect many LGBT rights, attempted to amplify those rights and litigate same-sex marriage (SSM) in mid-2000s; however, these attempts sparked a major anti-LGBT backlash by religious and conservative organizations. Yet a decade later, Colombia legalized SSM while Costa Rica still lacks the right to SSM. Using a most-similar systems comparative case study, this study engages the judicial politics literature to explain this divergent outcome. It details how courts, while staying receptive to many individual LGBT rights claims, deferred SSM legalization to popularly elected branches. In spite of the lack of legislative success in both countries, in Colombia a new litigation strategy harnessed that deference to craft a litigated route to legalized SSM. In Costa Rica, the courts’ lack of conditions or deadlines has left SSM foundering in the congress.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Overcoming the Limits of Legal Opportunity Structures: LGBT Rights’ Divergent Paths in Costa Rica and Colombia
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Overcoming the Limits of Legal Opportunity Structures: LGBT Rights’ Divergent Paths in Costa Rica and Colombia
      Available formats
      ×

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Overcoming the Limits of Legal Opportunity Structures: LGBT Rights’ Divergent Paths in Costa Rica and Colombia
      Available formats
      ×

Copyright

Corresponding author

References

Hide All
Colombian Constitutional Court (CCC)
C-029 del 2009. Magistrado Rodrigo Escobar Gil.
C-098 de 1996. Magistrado Eduardo Cifuentes Muñoz.
C-336 del 2008. Magistrada Clara Inés Vargas Hernández.
C-481 de 1998. Magistrado Alejandro Martínez Caballero.
C-577 del 2011. Magistrado Gabriel Eduardo Mendoza Martelo.
C-683 del 2015. Magistrado Jorge Iván Palacio Palacio.
C-811 de 2007. Magistrado Marco Gerardo Monroy Cabra.
C-814 de 2001. Magistrado Marco Gerardo Monroy Cabra.
T-025 del 2004. Magistrado Manuel José Cepeda Espinosa.
T-152 del 2007. Magistrado Rodrigo Escobar Gil.
T-153 de 1998. Magistrado Eduardo Cifuentes Muñoz.
T-476 de 2014. Magistrado Alberto Rojas Ríos.
T-539 de 1994. Magistrado Vladimiro Naranjo Mesa.
T-760 de 2008. Magistrado Manuel José Cepeda Espinosa.
T-909 del 2011. Magistrado. Juan Carlos Henao Peréz.
T-1241 del 2008. Magistrada Clara Inés Vargas Hernández.
Sala Constitucional de la Corte Suprema de Justicia de Costa Rica (Sala IV)
Resolutions: No. 2011-13800; No. 13313-10; No. 2006-07262; No. 5934-97; No. 3001-97; No. 4732-94.
Fuero Contencioso Administrativo y Tributario de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires. 2009. Juzgado no. 15. Sentencia Freyre, A. vs. Gobierno de Buenos Aires.
Inter-American Court of Human Rights. 2012. Atala Riffo y Niñas vs. Chile.
United Nations Human Rights Committee. 2005. Case X v. Colombia. Communication no. 1361/2005 (CCPR/C/89/D/1361/2005).
United States Supreme Court. 2015. Obergefell v. Hodges. No. 14–556. http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-556_3204.pdf
Albarracín, Mauricio. 2011. Social Movements and the Constitutional Court: Legal Recognition of the Rights of Same-Sex Couples in Colombia. Sur: International Journal 8, 14: 731.
Albarracín, Mauricio, and Lemaitre, Julietta. 2016. La cruzada contra el matrimonio entre personas del mismo sexo en Colombia. In Sexo, delitos y pecados intersecciones entre religión, género, sexualidad y el derecho en América Latina, ed. Sáez, Macarena and Morán Faúndes, José Manuel. Washington DC: American University Press. 92123.
Alée, Aarón. 2016. Iniciativa de bodas gay divide a poblacion. El Universal (Mexico City), June 14. http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/articulo/nacion/sociedad/2016/06/14/iniciativa-de-bodas-gay-divide-poblacion
Alsema, Adriaan. 2017. Colombia’s Congress Sinks Anti-Gay Adoption Referendum Bill. Colombia Reports, May 21. https://colombiareports.com/colombias-congress-sinks-anti-gay-abortion-referendum-bill
Alterio, Ana Micaela, and Ortega, Roberto Niembro, eds. 2016. La Suprema Corte y el matrimonio igualitario en México. Mexico City: UNAM/IIJ.
Andía, María Gracia. 2013. Legal Mobilization and the Road to Same-Sex Marriage in Argentina. In Pierceson et al. 2013. 131–50.
Arrieta, Esteban. 2016. ¿Matrimonio igualitario? no todavía. La República (San José), November 8. https://www.larepublica.net/noticia/-matrimonio-igualitario-no-todavia
Arrieta, Esteban. 2018. Matrimonios gais no pueden inscribirse, según la Dirección de Notariado. La República, January 19. https://www.larepublica.net/noticia/matrimonios-gais-no-pueden-inscribirse-segun-la-direccion-de-notariado
BBC. 2007. Rights for Colombia Gay Couples. BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6341593.stm
Bernal Pulido, Carlos. 2006. Relación entre el control de constitucionalidad y el control político: el caso de Colombia. In This Century’s Review vol. 1. http://history.thiscenturysreview.com/article.html?&no_cache=1&L=jligznuryruqc&L=3&tx_ttnews[backPid]=17&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=17&cHash=ade67fdba4
Bickel, Alexander. 1986. The Least Dangerous Branch: The Supreme Court at the Bar of Politics. 2nd ed. Binghamton: Vail-Ballou Press.
Boidi, María Fernanda. 2013. Same-Sex Marriage in Uruguay: A New Law in Line with Citizens’ Preferences. AmericasBarometer: Topical Brief. Nashville: Vanderbilt University. https://www.vanderbilt.edu/lapop/insights/ITB006en.pdf
Borges, Fabián A. 2014. Rules of Procedure as a Cause of Legislative Paralysis: The Case of Costa Rica, 2002–2012. Latin American Politics and Society 56, 4: 119–42.
Botero, Sandra. 2015. Agents of Neoliberalism? High Courts and Rights in Latin America. Paper presented at the Democracy, Citizenship, and Constitutionalism Conference “Citizens, Constitutions, and Democracy in Post-Neoliberal Latin America,” University of Pennsylvania, May 8.
Bowen, Rachel E. 2017. The Achilles Heel of Democracy: Judicial Autonomy and the Rule of Law in Central America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Boyd, Susan. 2013. “Marriage Is More than Just a Piece of Paper”: Feminist Critiques of Same-Sex Marriage. National Taiwan University Law Review 8, 2: 263–98.
Breyer, Stephen. 2011. Making Our Democracy Work: A Judge’s View. New York: Knopf.
Carroll, Aengus, and Mendos, Lucas. 2017. State-Sponsored Homophobia: A World Survey of Sexual Orientation Laws: Criminalisation, Protection and Recognition. 12th ed. May. Geneva: International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA).
Ceaser, Mike. 2007. Gay Rights Grow in Colombia: Legislation Pending to Extend Benefits to Same-Sex Couples. SFGate, April 26. http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Gay-rights-grow-in-Colombia-Legislation-pending-2563254.php
Cenziper, Debbie, and Obergefell, Jim. 2016. Love Wins: The Lovers and Lawyers Who Fought the Landmark Case for Marriage Equality. New York: HarperCollins.
Cepeda Espinosa, Manuel José. 2004. Judicial Activism in a Violent Context: The Origin, Role, and Impact of the Colombian Constitutional Court. Washington University Global Studies Law Review 3: 529700.
Cepeda Espinosa, Manuel José. 2011. Transcript: Social and Economic Rights and the Colombian Constitutional Court. Texas Law Review 89: 16991705.
Chinchilla, Sofia. 2016. Costa Rica consultará a Corte IDH por derechos de personas sexualmente diversa. La Nación (San José), May 17. https://www.nacion.com
Colombia Diversa. 2010. Situación de derechos humanos de la población LGBT. Informe alterno presentado al Comité de Derechos Humanos de Naciones Unidas. Bogotá.
Colombia Diversa. 2011. Todos los deberes, pocos los derechos. Situación de derechos humanos de lesbianas, gay, bisexuales y transgeneristas en Colombia 2008–2009. Bogotá.
Colombia Diversa. 2013. Impunidad sin fin. Informe de derechos humanos de lesbianas, gay, bisexuales y personas trans en Colombia 2010–2011. Bogotá.
Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH). 2011. Informe sobre los derechos humanos de las personas privadas de libertad en las Américas. Washington, DC: CIDH.
Comité Inter-eclesial de Derechos Humanos en América Latina (CIEDHAL). 1996. La violencia al descubierto: represión contra lesbianas y homosexuales en América Latina. Toronto: CIEDHAL.
Corrales, Javier. 2010. Latin American Gays: The Post-Left Leftists. Americas Quarterly, March 19. http://www.americasquarterly.org/gay-rights-Latin-America
Corrales, Javier. 2015. LGBT Rights and Representation in Latin America and the Caribbean: The Influence of Structure, Movements, Institutions, and Culture. Chapel Hill: LGBT Representation and Rights Initiative, University of North Carolina. https://globalstudies.unc.edu/files/2015/04/LGBT_Report_LatAm_v8-copy.pdf
Couso, Javier. 2006. The Changing Role of Law and Courts in Latin America: From an Obstacle to Social Change to a Tool of Social Equity. In Gargarella et al. 2006. 61–82.
Cruz Castro, Fernando. 2007. Costa Rica’s Constitutional Jurisprudence, Its Political Importance, and International Human Rights Law: Examination of Some Decisions. Duquesne Law Review. 45, 3: 557–76.
Díez, Jordi. 2013. Explaining Policy Outcomes: The Adoption of Same-Sex Unions in Buenos Aires and Mexico City. Comparative Political Studies 46, 2: 212–35.
Durán, Paula. 2016. Colombia aprueba el matrimonio gay. New York Times, April 7. https://www.nytimes.com/es/2016/04/07/colombia-aprueba-el-matrimonio-igualitario/
Epp, Charles. 1998. The Rights Revolution: Lawyers, Activists, and Supreme Courts in Comparative Perspective. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Epstein, Lee. 2017. Some Thoughts on the Study of Judicial Behavior. William and Mary Law Review 57, 6: 2017–73.
Friedman, Barry. 2010. The Will of the People: How Public Opinion Has Influenced the Supreme Court and Shaped the Meaning of the Constitution. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Gallup. 2016. El matrimonio civil entre parejas homosexuals. 0388-16000010 Gallup Poll #113, July. Gallup Colombia. https://www.scribd.com/document/317657179/0388-16000010-gallup-poll-113
Gargarella, Roberto, Domingo, Pilar, and Roux, Theunis. 2006. Courts and Social Transformation in New Democracies: An Institutional Voice for the Poor? Hampshire: Ashgate.
Gianella, Camila, and Wilson, Bruce M.. 2016. Superior Courts and LGBTI Rights in Latin America. In The Latin American Casebook: Courts, Rights, and the Constitution, ed. González-Bertomeu, Juan and Gargarella, Roberto. London: Routledge. 5979.
Gloppen, Siri, Wilson, Bruce, Gargarella, Roberto, Skaar, Elin, and Kinader, Morten. 2010. Courts and Power in Latin America and Africa. New York: Palgrave McMillan.
Helmke, Gretchen, and Ríos-Figueroa, Julio. 2011. Courts in Latin America. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Hilbink, Lisa. 2007. Judges Beyond Politics in Democracy and Dictatorship: Lessons from Chile. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Hilson, Chris. 2002. New Social Movements: The Role of Legal Opportunity. Journal of European Public Policy 9: 238–55.
Hirschl, Ran. 2004. Towards Juristocracy: The Origins and Consequences of the New Constitutionalism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Human Rights Watch. 2013. Uruguay: Marriage Equality Approved: Same-Sex Marriage Law is a Win for Fundamental Rights. April 2. https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/04/02/uruguay-marriage-equality-approved
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). 2015. Violence Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Persons in the Americas. OAS/Ser.L/V/II.rev.1, Doc. 36. November 12. http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/reports/pdfs/violencelgbtipersons.pdf
Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IMDC). 2016. Global Internal Displacement Database. http://www.internal-displacement.org/database
Jaramillo Sierra, Isabel C., and Rozo, Antonio Barreto. 2010. El problema del procesamiento de información en la selección de tutelas por la Corte Constitucional, con especial atención al papel de las insistencias. Colombia Internacional 72 (July–December): 5386.
Josephson, Jyl. 2005. Citizenship, Same-Sex Marriage, and Feminist Critiques of Marriage. Perspectives on Politics 3, 2: 269–84.
Kahn, Carrie. 2015. How Mexico Quietly Legalized Same-Sex Marriage. All Things Considered, June 16. Washington, DC: National Public Radio. https://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2015/06/16/414964843/how-mexico-quietly-legalized-same-sex-marriage
Keck, Thomas M. 2009. Beyond Backlash: Assessing the Impact of Judicial Decisions on LGBT Rights. Law and Society Review 43, 1:151–86.
Klarman, Michael J. 1994. How Brown Changed Race Relations: The Backlash Thesis. Journal of American History 81, 1: 81118.
Klarman, Michael J. 2005. Brown and Lawrence (and Goodridge). Michigan Law Review 104: 431–89.
Langford, Malcolm, ed. 2008. Social Rights Jurisprudence: Emerging Trends in International and Comparative Law. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Langford, Malcolm, Garavito, César Rodríguez, and Rossi, Julieta. 2017. Social Rights Judgments and the Politics of Compliance: Making It Stick. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lemaitre, Julieta, and Sandvik, Kristin. 2015. Shifting Frames, Vanishing Resources, and Dangerous Political Opportunities: Legal Mobilization Among Displaced Women in Colombia. Law and Society Review 49, 1: 538.
Madrigal, Luis Manuel. 2017. Encuesta: seis de cada diez costarricenses rechazan el matrimonio igualitario. El Mundo (San José), May 30. https://www.elmundo.cr/encuesta-seis-de-cada-diez-costarricenses-rechazan-el-matrimonio-igualitario
Mata Blanco, Esteban. 2014. Cinco diputados evangélicos consolidan bloque contra el aborto y el matrimonio gay en la Asamblea. La Nación, June 8. http://www.nacion.com/nacional/politica/diputados-evangelicos-consolidan-matrimonio-Asamblea_0_1419458121.html
McCann, Michael W. 1994. Rights at Work: Pay Equity Reform and the Politics of Legal Mobilization. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Muñoz, Fernando. 2017. Sala IV rechaza reclamo de diputados contra decretos sobre “ideología de género.” Monumental (San José), November 8. http://www.monumental.co.cr/2017/11/08/sala-iv-rechaza-accion-de-diputados-contra-decretos-sobre-ideologia-de-genero
New York Times. 2014. Why Is Latin America So Progressive on Gay Rights? January 29. http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/01/29/why-is-latin-america-so-progressive-on-gay-rights
Piatti-Crocker, Adriana. 2010. Constructing Policy Innovation in Argentina: From Gender Quotas to Same-Sex Marriage. In Same-Sex Marriage in the Americas: Policy Innovation for Same-Sex Relationships, ed. Piatti-Crocker, Jason Pierceson, and Schulenberg, Shawn. Lanham: Lexington Books. 3772.
Pierceson, Jason, Piatti-Crocker, Adriana, and Schulenberg, Shawn, eds. 2013. Same-Sex Marriage in Latin America: Promise and Resistance. Lanham: Lexington Books.
Rodríguez Garavito, César, and Rodríguez, Diana. 2010. Corte y cambio social: cómo la Corte Constitucional tranformó el desplazamiento forzado en Colombia. Bogotá: Dejusticia.
Rosenberg, Adrienne. 2009. The Brazilian Paradox: The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Battle for Human Rights. Human Rights and Human Welfare, Topical Research Digest: Revisiting Human Rights in Latin America. 1630. https://www.du.edu/korbel/hrhw/researchdigest/latinamerica2/digest-human%20rights%20in%20latin%20america%20vol%202-brazil.pdf
Rosenberg, Gerald. 1991. The Hollow Hope: Can Courts Bring About Social Change? Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Rosenberg, Gerald. 2008. The Hollow Hope: Can Courts Bring About Social Change? 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Rosenberg, Gerald. 2009. Saul Alinsky and the Litigation Campaign to Win the Right to Same-Sex Marriage. John Marshall Law Review 42: 643–69.
Sáez, Macarena, and Faúndes, José Manuel Morán. 2016. Sexo, delitos y pecados intersecciones entre religión, género, sexualidad y el derecho en América Latina. Washington, DC: American University. https://www.american.edu/centers/latin-american-latino-studies/upload/3-15-17-SEXO-DELITOS-PECADOS-3-0.pdf
Schifter, Jacobo. 1989. La formación de una contracultura: homosexualismo y SIDA en Costa Rica. San José: Ediciones Guayacán.
Semana. 2011. La familia y el aborto, según el procurador. May 14. https://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/la-familia-aborto-segun-procurador/239746-3
Sieder, Rachel, Schjolden, Line, and Angell, Alan. 2005. Introduction. In The Judicialization of Politics in Latin America, ed. Schjolden, Sieder, and Angell, . New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 120.
El Tiempo (Bogotá). 2011. Corte explica por qué matrimonio homosexual es decisión del Congreso. July 26. http://www.eltiempo.com/archivo/documento/CMS-10013464
El Tiempo (Bogotá). 2016. Por referendo se decidiría si parejas gay pueden adoptar. September 14. http://www.eltiempo.com/politica/congreso/adopcion-gay-en-colombia-senado-discute-referendo-contra-adopcion-50302
Tushnet, Mark. 2009. Weak Courts, Strong Rights: Judicial Review and Social Welfare Rights in Comparative Constitutional Law. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Uprimny, Rodrigo. 2007. Judicialization of Politics in Colombia: Cases, Merits and Risks. Sur: International Journal 6, 4: 4865.
Vanhala, Lisa. 2012. Legal Opportunity Structures and the Paradox of Legal Mobilization by the Environmental Movement in the UK. Law and Society Review 46, 3: 523–56.
Villarreal, Evelyn, and Wilson, Bruce M.. 2018a. Costa Rica’s 2018 Elections: Corruption, Morality Politics, and Voter Alienation Make Uncertainty the Only Certainty. London School of Economics and Political Science Blog, February 1. http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/latamcaribbean/2018/02/01/costa-ricas-2018-elections-corruption-morality-politics-and-voter-alienation-make-uncertainty-the-only-certainty
Villarreal, Evelyn, and Wilson, Bruce M.. 2018b. Costa Rica’s 2018 Elections: The Two Alvarados, Between Deepening Division and Democratic Dependability. London School of Economics and Political Science Blog, February 8. http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/latamcaribbean/2018/02/08/costa-ricas-2018-elections-the-two-alvarados-between-deepening-division-and-democratic-dependability
Wilkinson, Annie. 2015. Who the Rainbow Tide Leaves Out. NACLA Report on the Americas 47, 4: 3032.
Wilson, Bruce M. 2003. The Elections in Costa Rica, February and April 2002. Electoral Studies 22, 3: 509–16.
Wilson, Bruce M. 2007. Costa Rica’s General Election, February 2006. Electoral Studies 26, 1: 712–16.
Wilson, Bruce M. 2009. Rights Revolutions in Unlikely Places: Costa Rica and Colombia. Journal of Politics in Latin America 1, 2: 5985.
Wilson, Bruce M. 2011. Enforcing Rights and Exercising an Accountability Function: Costa Rica’s Constitutional Court. In Helmke and Ríos-Figueroa 2011. 55–80.
Wilson, Bruce M., and Villarreal, Evelyn. 2017. Costa Rica: Tipping Points and an Incomplete Journey. In Transitions to Good Governance: Creating Virtuous Cycles of Anti-Corruption, ed. Alina Mungiu-Pippidi and Michael Johnson. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. 184212.
Wilson, Bruce M., and Rodríguez, Juan Carlos. 2006. Legal Opportunity Structures and Social Movements: The Effects of Institutional Change on Costa Rican Politics. Comparative Political Studies 39, 3: 325–51.
Wilson, Bruce M., and Villarreal, Evelyn. 2011. Costa Rica’s General Election, February 2010. Electoral Studies 30, 1: 231–34.
Wilson, Bruce M., and Rodríguez, Olman. 2017. Costa Rica: Understanding Variations in Compliance. In Langford et al. 2017. 111–39.
Yamin, Alicia E., and Gloppen, Siri, eds. 2011. Litigating Health Rights: Can Courts Bring More Justice to Health? Cambridge: Harvard Universtiy Press.
Yashar, Deborah 1999. Democracy, Indigenous Movements, and the Postliberal Challenge in Latin America. World Politics 52, 1: 76104.

Keywords

Overcoming the Limits of Legal Opportunity Structures: LGBT Rights’ Divergent Paths in Costa Rica and Colombia

  • Bruce M. Wilson (a1) and Camila Gianella-Malca (a2)

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed