Costa Rica has become the first country in Central America to approve a same-sex union.
Gerald Castro, 37, and Cristian Zamora, 45, have been living together for 12 years and began their legal battle for recognition in 2013.
They were finally granted a common-law marriage by a family court in the city of Goicoechea on Tuesday (2 June) – a landmark decision could set a precedent for other judges to follow.
But Costa Rica’s conservative right-wing is expected to appeal and a legal battle to ensue.
Common-law marriage grants all the benefits of a traditional marriage – including inheritance rights, social security and public insurance benefits and hospital visitation rights – but requires the approval of a judge after a couple has been together for at least three years.
The judge made the ruling based on a 2013 amendment to the Youth Code, which states that common-law marriages should be granted regardless of gender and ‘without discrimination against their human dignity.’
LGBTI activists have hailed the decision as a ‘golazo’ – a stunning goal in football terminology.
‘This is a big step forward. This is the first time that the law has been recognized as such,’ said Marco Castillo, president of Diversity Movement, told the Tico Times.
‘I know of nine other cases presented that would have to be approved too.’
Costa Rica does not recognize gay marriage but a civil unions bill is pending in the Legislative Assembly.