“Are you sure? Really?” my husband asked me in 2013. “You really want to retire to Panama?”

“Yes, I’m sure,” I responded, “I can’t stand many more Chicago winters. I’ve always wanted to try living outside the US. I like Panama and we’d be exposed to a whole mix of people, expats and locals, young and old. Yes!”

On the “pro” side, Panama is a bit less expensive than the US and we could buy a bigger and better condo there than we could have in Chicago. Panama City is a modern metropolis with first world infrastructure and internet, plus some pretty good gastronomy. Panama offers a generous program to retirees with discounts on everything from restaurants to airfares to health care for residents over 60. On the con side, and there are plenty, the humidity, the bureaucracy, the impunctuality, the psychotic drivers, the “mañana” attitude, and the corruption. However, unlike in the US, gun ownership is heavily restricted and gun crimes, while not uncommon, are far less frequent than in the US.

My husband Alvaro is Panamanian and even he wasn’t sure he wanted to move back after having lived in the US since 1986. We’d met on an unscheduled business trip to Panama City in January, 1985. We maintained a long-distance relationship via letters and long-distance phone calls for over a year before we decided that he’d join me in Chicago.

Decades rolled by. He became a US citizen. We got married legally on July 4, 2014. We joke that it was so nice of the City of Chicago to put on a firework display to celebrate our wedding.

I continued my climb up the advertising corporate ladder, first as a producer, senior producer and then executive producer. But as one of my former colleagues once said, “Advertising is a young man’s game and I’m no longer a young man.” In 2015, with retirement in sight, we purchased an apartment in a soon-to-be-built building in Panama City.

In late 2016, we got a call from an acquaintance asking if we’d be willing to participate in a class action suit against the Panamanian government in favor of marriage equality. We eagerly signed on.

In March, 2017, our suit, along with ones from two other couples, was presented and accepted by the Supreme Court of Justice of Panama. Unlike in the U.S, in Panama it can take up to ten years to get a ruling from the Supreme Court. So, we waited, and waited, and did interviews, and appeared in videos and marched and continued to wait for a ruling.

Finally, earlier this year, the Supreme Court of Justice decided that there was nothing discriminatory about not permitting marriage equality since the purpose of marriage was procreation. That left even conservative legal minds in Panama scratching their heads. Did that mean that an older couple that got married should have their marriage invalidated because they could no longer have children? What about a young couple that didn’t want to have children? Should they not be allowed to marry? It was a mess.

In any case, the ruling opened the door to appeal to the Inter American Commission on Human Rights located in Washington DC. Our case has been submitted there and it is up to the Commission to decide if our case merits a hearing before the Inter American Court of Human Rights in San José, Costa Rica. It is almost a certainty that our case will move to the Court because it has already issued opinions stating that it is the obligation of member states (and Panama is one) to provide marriage equality to its citizens. We hope to hear from the Commission later this year.

We have become minor celebrities in the LGBTQI+ community here in Panama. This year, we were asked to be the grand marshals of the pride parade. On July 1, we marched through Panama’s Casco Antiguo at the head of the parade, followed by thousands of others, demanding respect and recognition of our human rights. Alvaro and I each gave a speech at the end of the march. Of course, mine began with, “Yes, the Gringo speaks Spanish,” which brought laughs and a round of applause.

We’re now in a country that is roughly twenty years behind the US in terms of its human rights agenda, there are no legal protections for the LGBTQI+ community here. We’ve actually heard people say that those laws aren’t needed because Panama is not homophobic, which is absolutely untrue. It’s amazing how someone who has never walked in your shoes can tell you that they fit just fine.

The fight for justice continues here in the tropics. Over 80% of the population in the Americas lives in countries with marriage equality. Panama’s neighbors Colombia and Costa Rica both allow same sex marriage. It will arrive here eventually. But just like almost anything in Panama, it will take its old, sweet time in getting here.