Costa Rica to offer medical benefits to same-sex couples

SAN JOSE Fri May 23, 2014 1:01pm EDT

Revellers with rainbow-coloured umbrellas take part in an annual gay pride parade in San Jose July 1, 2012.  REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate

Revellers with rainbow-coloured umbrellas take part in an annual gay pride parade in San Jose July 1, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Juan Carlos Ulate

SAN JOSE (Reuters) - Costa Rica's social security system has agreed to extend medical benefits to same-sex couples, in a fresh step toward equal rights for gays and lesbians in Latin America.

The board of directors of the country's social security system, known as the Caja, voted unanimously to extend the benefits on Thursday night. It now has three months to implement a framework to recognize same-sex couples for health insurance and hospital visitation rights.

Costa Rica, a retirement haven for a growing number of U.S. citizens, has not legalized gay marriage or civil unions. A bill on gay civil unions has been pending in the National Assembly for years.

New center-left President Luis Guillermo Solis, who hoisted the gay pride flag at the presidential palace in an act of solidarity on May 16, says he wants to grant the gay and lesbian community more rights. But he does not support gay marriage.

(Reporting by Zach Dyer; Editing by Dave Graham and Tom Brown)

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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