Nearshore Americas

Legal Marriage by Same-Sex Couples Opens a New Avenue of Possibilities

Same-sex couples can marry legally, according to newly-passed legislation in Costa Rica. This development, in turn, opens new obligations and possibilities for business.

The ruling came as a consequence of case law that arose from different international human rights organizations, which decreed that discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation was forbidden, and the prohibition to marry by same-sex couples was no exception. In Costa Rica, the Constitutional Court has now given that international mandate local backing. Therefore, as a society, we must adapt to the changes that are coming, including within corporations. What changes do we need to make?

San José, the capital of Costa Rica

The Data on Open-Mindedness

Several global financial institutions, such as the IMF and the World Bank, have indicated categorically that any type of discrimination generates economic damage,  reduces the possibility of business and causes an important loss in potential revenue.

This negative impact comes from the sub-utilization of human resources, lost revenue in the tourism industry (particularly weddings), and the cost to medical services because of the high index of depression within the LGBTIQ+ community.

Support for this is plentiful. A US study determined that the suicide rate for all high school students reduced by approximately seven percent after the Supreme Court enacted marriage equality. A similar study in Sweden and Denmark found that suicide rates among homosexuals have nearly halved since the countries legalized same-sex marriage.

We can be certain that discrimination will be bad for business in this new era

An ILO Pride study highlighted the serious discrimination suffered by LGBTIQ+ people in Costa Rica. The organization Open For Business has even managed to quantify the economic damage caused by LGBTIQ+ discrimination: ranging from 0.1 to 1.0 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), which is approximately ¢314 billion to ¢349 billion per year.

The Costa Rican economy is rapidly globalizing. Global markets and companies are looking for providers and suppliers to maintain certain minimum standards, which often includes respect for diversity and inclusion.

A company that discriminates, or closes its business to this new reality, will have a diminished capacity to captivate these markets.

A Change in Corporate Culture

Historically, both the state and private companies have offered a range of benefits to married couples in Costa Rica. Following last month’s ruling, these must now be extended to same-sex couples.

For employers, that could mean a major change in behaviour. The marriage ruling will impact health insurance claims, income tax, employment benefits, pensions and other areas – allowing same-sex partners the same rights as heterosexual spouses.

The rainbow flag is used as a symbol of LGBTIQ+ rights across the world
The rainbow flag is used as a symbol of LGBTIQ+ rights across the world

The Labor Procedural Reform of 2017 has also tightened the protections against discrimination in the workplace in Costa Rica, including discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Employers could now face fines and damages for treating employers differently.

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It is clear that the government, corporations and individuals must adjust to this new reality. Are you prepared to face them? Because we can be certain that discrimination will be bad for business in this new era.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daniel Valverde

Daniel Valverde is the Director of the Employment Law and Human Rights office at ECIJA, whose main duty is to be the point of contact of clients on labor-related matters. He consults in employment law and the ever-evolving field of human rights, a field in which corporations will have a key role in the near future.

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