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Evangelical Christian Opposed to Gay Marriage Takes Hefty Lead in Costa Rica Presidential Election

Costa Rican presidential candidate waves his hand at a victory party, while holding his daughter in his arms.

The seeming inevitability of same-sex marriage has stalled, and even reversed, in two North American countries. Last month, Bermuda became the first country in the world to repeal same-sex marriage. In Roman Catholic Costa Rica, an evangelical Protestant has a solid lead in the presidential election, likely because he has pledged to oppose same-sex marriage after an international court tried to foist it on the country.

On February 4, conservative evangelical Christian Fabricio Alvarado Muñoz of the National Restoration Party won with a mere 25 percent of the vote, triggering a runoff April 1 against Carlos Alvarado Quesada of the ruling Citizens' Action Party, who took 21.6 percent of the vote.

A new poll released Sunday found Alvarado Muñoz with a powerful 14-point lead over Alvarado Quesada. Once undecided voters had been removed, Alvarado Muñoz took 56.9 percent of the vote in a survey by the polling firm OPol Consultores taken between March 12 and March 16. Alvarado Quesada took 43.1 percent, without undecided voters, Business Insider reported.

The evangelical Protestant kept his lead with undecided voters factored in. Over one third of the electorate said they were undecided or planned not to vote. Another third, 36.5 percent, said they would back Alvarado Muñoz, while about a quarter (27.7 percent) said they would support Alvarado Quesada.

Alvarado Muñoz, a 43-year-old religious singer and former journalist, shot to the top of the polls in late January, following a January 9 ruling from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) requiring Costa Rica to allow same-sex couples to marry. The court ruled that all countries which have signed the American Convention on Human Rights must approve same-sex marriage.

According to a Pew Research Center survey in 2014, 61 percent of Costa Ricans opposed legal same-sex marriage, while only 29 percent supported it. Only 13.8 percent of Costa Ricans identified themselves as evangelical Protestants in 2007, while 71 percent said they were Roman Catholic (45 percent practicing, 26 percent non-practicing).

According to the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church, homosexuality is a perversion and marriage is between one man and one woman. Evangelical Christians see marriage as a symbol of the union between Jesus Christ and His church, which will culminate in a wedding feast at the end of time. They also cite Romans 1, a passage suggesting that homosexual passion is a curse and result of sin. For these reasons, most Catholics and evangelical Protestants both oppose same-sex marriage.

Even so, evangelical Protestant Alvarado Muñoz shot to the top of the polls in mid-January, after firmly denouncing the IACHR ruling as a "sovereign violation" of Costa Rica's self-governance. In a February debate, he declared, "We have to stand up to those who want to trample on the family."