A Costa Rican bishop has warned that although same-sex marriage has been legalized in the country, the Catholic Church will continue to proclaim the truth of God's plan for sexuality and marriage.

Despite the change in law, Bishop José Manuel Garita of Ciudad Quesada said May 26, "we will not tire in showing the beauty of marriage between a man and a woman. Nor will the Church cease to proclaim the plan willed by God in creating man and woman, even though the times, fashions, pressures and ideologies dictate otherwise."

In a January 9, 2018 decision, the Inter-American Court on Human Rights ruled that Costa Rica must legalize gay marriage. The Costa Rican government had asked the court for an advisory opinion on gay marriage and other issues.

Critics at the time argued that the decision was non-binding and was a violation of Costa Rica's national sovereignty.

Costa Rica's Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice then issued a 6-4 decision in August 2018 declaring unconstitutional the portion of the nation's family code that prohibited gay marriage. The court gave the National Assembly 18 months to conform the country's laws to permit same-sex unions.

The National Assembly did not enact legislation on the matter, so the relevant section of the family code was automatically eliminated on May 26, 2020, as mandated by the Supreme Court's ruling.

Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado said the change "will bring about a significant social and cultural transformation which will allow thousands of people to get married in front of a lawyer."

However, Bishop Manuel contended that legally redefining marriage does change the inherent meaning of the institution.

"As Christians, we know that the family based on man and woman has a dignity and a mission," he said.

More in Americas

He stressed that no one, regardless of sexual orientation, should be denied food, housing, work or health care, but added that "to achieve these and other rights the sacred foundation of marriage must not be touched."

"We too have a right for what is sacred to a great majority of our society to be respected," he said.

On May 15, the Costa Rican Bishops' Conference had issued a statement for International Family Day, lamenting the spread of an ideological colonization that "discredits the value of the person, life, marriage and the family," resulting in a loss of clarity around the truth "that only the exclusive and indissoluble union between a man and a woman fulfills a complete social function, because it is a stable commitment and makes fertility possible."

The bishops acknowledged that "in a democratic and pluralistic society like ours, legal recognition can be given to people of the same sex who live together," but said it would be "unjust if such recognition were to equate the union of same sex persons with that of marriage."

"Not wanting to discriminate against homosexual people does not authorize the state to confuse the natural order of marriage and the family," they said.

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.