IACHR calls on Panama to guarantee marriage equality and the right to equality and non-discrimination

March 24, 2023

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Washington D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) regrets the decision of the Supreme Court of Justice of Panama to not recognize the right to civil marriage between persons of the same sex and calls on the State to guarantee the right to equality and non-discrimination to diverse families in accordance with the Inter-American standards.

On March 1, the Supreme Court published a judgment on February 16 in which it decided for the constitutional conformity of the articles of the family code and the code of private international law, to limit civil marriages to persons of the opposite sex. This decision has a negative impact on the principles of equality and non-discrimination by excluding the possibility of same-sex marriages and the recognition of those celebrated abroad.

In this regard, the IACHR reminds the State that, in conformity with the advisory opinion 24-17 of the Inter-American Court, the rights guaranteed to opposite-sex couples must be extended and recognized also to same sex couples in the understanding that both family life and the right to marriage are rights linked to the principle of dignity and free autonomy of people, as well as the right to form their life project without interference from the State. Similarly, the concept of "family" must be understood in a broad sense that effectively encompasses its various forms and compositions in order to be recognized and protected by States.

The IACHR calls on the State of Panama and all States in the region that still do not allow same-sex marriage, to reform and harmonize their internal legislation to ensure that same-sex couples are guaranteed the same rights, freedoms, responsibilities, and opportunities that are guaranteed to opposite-sex couples in strict adherence to the principle of equality and non-discrimination.

Finally, the Commission reiterates that neither religious ideologies or arguments, nor the lack of social consensus on the rights of certain traditionally excluded groups or people in vulnerable situations, such as LGBTI persons, can be considered as a valid argument to deny or restrict their human rights or to perpetuate and reproduce any type of historical and structural discrimination.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 047/23

3:30 PM