A debate over gay marriage has upturned Costa Rica's presidential race, giving ammunition to conservative frontrunners ahead of Sunday's vote and challenging the Central American country's image as a progressive bastion. Evangelical Christian singer and congressman Fabricio Alvarado, who leads recent polls, has pitted himself against a January ruling from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that urges Costa Rica to legalize same-sex marriage. Alvarado, 43, has said the Costa Rica-based court is violating the country's sovereignty and jeopardizing its "traditional family" values. He has threatened to withdraw Costa Rica from the court system, as Venezuela did.
Costa Rica's Supreme Court has ruled that the country's same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional and discriminatory. The court ruling gives the country's legislators a time limit of 18 months to change the current law. The president welcomed the ruling, saying he wants to guarantee "no person will face discrimination for their sexual orientation". However many lawmakers are evangelicals who strongly oppose gay marriage. A Supreme Court judge, Fernando Castillo, told a press conference on Wednesday that the ban will automatically cease to legally exist in 18 months, even if no action is taken by the legislature. The legislative chamber has 57 seats - 14 of which are held by evangelical members.