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Costa Rica Extends Medical Benefits To Same-Sex Couples

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People take part in a Gay Pride parade in San Jose, on June 30, 2013. AFP PHOTO/Hector RETAMAL (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

SAN JOSE, May 23 (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)

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