OPINION: Extending marriage to same-sex couples is good for the Costa Rican economy

Tourism could benefit by as much as $40 million a year, as same-sex couples flock to Costa Rica to marry

Nisa Sanz is chair of Sí Acepto Costa Rica

Earlier this month, more than 30 businesses came out in support of extending marriage to same-sex couples in Costa Rica – from major multinationals such as Microsoft and Coca-Cola to well-regarded local companies including Batalla Law Firm, ULACIT and the Business Association for Development (AED) – based on an Open for Business report finding that the freedom to marry will boost our national economy by up to $492 million.

It was a moment that just years ago might have seemed impossible – our country’s most recognised companies, who collectively employ tens of thousands of Costa Ricans from coast-to-coast, eagerly raising their voices to affirm that treating families such as mine with respect is a commonsense approach to ensure future prosperity and economic growth.

This statement from the business community backing marriage for gay and lesbian couples – the first of its kind in Central America – is testament to a new reality that is emerging more clearly every day: the landscape for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) equality in the region is shifting.

Here in Costa Rica, we’re proud to be at the forefront.

On May 27, Costa Rica will officially become the first country in Central America where same-sex couples can obtain a civil marriage.

This victory comes after the Supreme Court of Costa Rica affirmed a decision of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that found that gay and lesbian couples must be afforded the freedom to marry across all 35 signatory countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The stigma that has long pushed LGBT+ people and our families to the shadows is beginning to crumble. Our once-marginalised community is now joining hands with a broad-based coalition to demonstrate that ending marriage discrimination isn’t just the right thing to do for our families – it’s about building a better future for the country we all call home.

In a country where our economy hinges on tourism – and is globally renowned as a destination wedding hot-spot – the sheer loss in revenue by excluding gay couples from the wedding industry is significant. Once marriage for same-sex couples becomes the law in May, the report estimates that tourism revenue will increase by up to $40 million as gay and lesbian couples flock to our beautiful beaches to say “I do” (or Sí Acepto in Spanish) – and Costa Rica takes its place as a welcoming and inclusive country on the global stage.
The personal toll of discrimination on LGBT+ people in the workforce has an economic cost too. Institutionalised discrimination has led to higher rates of depression and HIV among LGBT+ people, which in turn has reduced economic productivity to the tune of up to 453 million.

So as our country’s top employers consider how they can best foster innovation, attract top talent and bolster Costa Rica’s standing in the global economy, the arrival of the freedom to marry in Costa Rica couldn’t come any sooner.

And while the reasons for extending marriage to couples such as myself and my wife of 15 years go far beyond purely economic benefits, this week in Costa Rica speaks to a larger trend – one that will only grow stronger by the year.

When people get to know who we are, they come to find out that same gender couples – like everyone else – simply want to be able to provide for our families, contribute to our communities and hopefully leave the world a little better than we found it.

By treating us with the same respect as everyone else, we create a more productive, harmonious society for everyone.

Businesses in Costa Rica know this. Every day, more of our fellow ‘ticos’ get to know and accept us. And soon, we’re confident, all of Central America will come to realise that the freedom to marry will lead to stronger families, stronger economies – and a brighter economic future for our region.