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Panama Supreme Court rules same-sex marriage not a human right

NOEUD PAPILLON ; MARIAGE

Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 03/05/23

Since 2016 the highest court in Panama has debated the case and its appeals, only to rule that no changes be made to the family code.

The Supreme Court of Panama has issued a ruling that same-sex marriage is not a human right, a topic which had been under consideration since 2016. The ruling, dated to February 16, will change little in the nation, as the Central American country will continue to recognize marriage as between a man and a woman.

According to Barron’s, the suit was filed by a same-sex couple who received legal recognition of marriage abroad and wished for their union to be recognized in Panama, in 2016. The case went through several appeals in which the plaintiffs argued that the current family codes were unconstitutional, because they only recognize marriage between a man and a woman. 

In the court’s ruling, the judges wrote: 

“There is a reality, and it is that, until now, the right to equal marriage is no more than an aspiration, even though a legitimate one for the groups involved, and it does not fall into the category of a human right or a fundamental right.” The court added, “No matter how many changes happen in reality,” for now gay marriage “lacks conventional and constitutional recognition.”

The ruling went on to describe the current family code as “objectively and reasonably justified.” It noted that the family code was meant to give precedence to “unions capable of establishing families” which bring continuity to society and even the “human species.” 

In summation, the final ruling of the court was that “no matter how many changes occur in reality,” for now equal marriage “lacks conventional and constitutional recognition” in Panama.

While this bid to change the Panama constitution has failed, the plaintiffs may still pursue an alternative route. In 2018, the Interamerican Court of Human Rights ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to the same marriage rights as opposite-sex couples. Reports, however, did not indicate whether or not the plaintiffs would seek assistance from the Interamerican Court of Human Rights for an appeal to the Panama government.

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