On January 9, 2018, in San José, Costa Rica, there was a clear legal win for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people in Latin American and the Caribbean. On that day, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights adopted an Advisory Opinion regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, impacting Costa Rica as well as 20 other countries who ratified the American Convention on Human Rights. Although not necessarily legally binding, the Court used a human rights-based doctrine to rule on policies within the Costa Rican government, thus upholding fundamental rights of transgender people and same-sex couples throughout the region.
In Costa Rica, the response has been staunchly polarizing. Following the ruling, Costa Rica’s Vice President, Ana Helena Chacón Echeverría, immediately signaled that Costa Rica would adopt the Court’s recommendations. This follows a pattern of their current Administration’s progress on LGBTI issues, most recently allowing same-sex widow’s access to their partner’s pensions. However, the backlash to the Court’s ruling has been just as quick. Of the 13 candidates who ran for president during the first round of elections, the candidate who openly condemned same-sex marriage and transgender empowerment was catapulted from the middle of the pack to become one of the most popular. In fact, on February 4 during the first round of elections, that same candidate secured 25% of the vote and entered the final election round with one other candidate.
Largely, the dialogue in Costa Rica and beyond has focused on the progress of LGBTI people as a matter of human rights, as granted by the American Convention, or as civil and political rights, as granted by governments. Too often, the socioeconomic dimensions of LGBTI inclusion are ignored. As the business voice of the LGBT community and the largest advocacy organization dedicated to expanding their economic opportunities, NGLCC and NGLCC Global continue to advance LGBTI economic empowerment as a strong pathway toward social progress.
In September 2017, NGLCC Global sat down with Vice President Chacón Echeverría to discuss this socioeconomic dimension, as well as the importance of working with an LGBTI Chamber of Commerce.
As the Vice President noted, promoting the well-being of LGBTI people is not only the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do. Simply put, it makes economic sense. On the level of the individual, discrimination and violence can limit the equality of opportunity of an LGBTI person and stymie their socioeconomic advances. Regarding same-sex marriage, the economic benefits it creates for state and local economies are powerful. For LGBTI business owners, discriminatory policies can limit their ability to secure contracts, while inclusive policies allow them to make money and contribute significantly to the economy. Ultimately, a culture of inclusion and pro-LGBTI laws allow individuals, families, and business owners to contribute to stronger GDP growth as well as other non-monetary advances. The responsibility to combat poverty, to promote healthier communities, and to build a stronger and more inclusive economy falls squarely on the shoulders of governments.
In Costa Rica, the Cámara de Comercio Diversa (Diverse Chamber of Commerce) was created in 2015 to promote business opportunities for LGBTI-owned businesses, as a way to promote the collective socioeconomic empowerment and visibility of the LGBTI community. Since 2016, this chamber has been an active member of the NGLCC Global network and joined many other partners in Latin America, the Caribbean, and beyond. The organization’s President, Julio Cesar Calvo, speaks to the power of collaboration within the NGLCC Global network, noting:
“One of the reasons I joined NGLCC is because I believe in what NGLCC is doing globally and I believe [that] offers a lot of potential for our country and our chamber. [The network helps] open our eyes to find new business opportunities, make contacts, and shows how we can improve our visibility as a chamber and as a country”.
As new social backlashes against LGBTI legal advancements rise and take an all-too-familiar form, the NGLCC Global network will continue to use new and innovative tools, partners, and levers of social change to promote collective empowerment. As a network of 14 global LGBTI Chambers of Commerce and Business Associations, each partner stands ready to promote the next phase of the movement – economic empowerment and inclusive economic growth for LGBTI people and business owners.