LGBT Rights in Panama

Blog by Omar Fuentes

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Panama may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Even though both male and female same-sex sexual activity is legal in Panama, same-sex couples and households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for the same legal benefits and protections available to opposite-sex married couples.


Homosexuality was legalized in Panama relatively recently, when the 1949 law prohibiting homosexuality was repealed in July 2008. Although there is a growing gay community in Panama, gay couples have no official rights and same-sex relationships, marriages or unions are not recognized. This means that gay couples are not eligible for some of the protections and civil rights as heterosexual couples.

Recognition of LGBT Rights

There is no recognition of same-sex couples. A proposal that would have provided for same-sex civil unions was defeated in 2004, mainly due to pressure on the government from the Catholic Church. Only about 12% of Panamanians support same-sex marriage to be recognized in the country.

On May 8th, 2014, the Code of Private International Law was approved. The code prohibits same-sex marriages in Panama and clarifies that the country will not recognize the legality of these marriages if performed in another country. Article 40 specifies “same-sex marriages are strictly prohibited in the country.”

Adoption and parenting

Same-sex couples are unable to legally adopt in Panama. However, IVF and artificial insemination are available to lesbian couples in the country.

Gender identity/expression

Since 2006, transgender persons in Panama can change their legal gender and name on their birth certificates, but only after having undergone gender reassignment surgery.


In May 2016, a 22-year-old Panamanian transgender woman was allowed to change her name, so that it matches her gender identity, without having undergone surgery. This was the first time a transgender person in Panama could change their name without first undergoing surgery.

Discrimination protections

There are no laws protecting gays from discrimination. Article 39 of the Constitution forbids the creation of “companies, associations or foundations” that are contrary to moral or legal order. In the past this has been used to refuse registration of gay organizations. In August 2015, a bill to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, was introduced in the National Assembly.

LGBT rights movement in Panama

In Panama, where most of the LGBT reside, one can see small lights of hope, heroes who fight against a powerful and unjust system to support the LGBTI collective in Panama. It is therefore worth noting the commendable work of various foundations:

Asociación Hombres y Mujeres Nuevos De Panamá (AHMNP), whose work focuses on improving the quality of life for the LGBT population by providing comprehensive preventive health services, education and guidance, setting a tone of trust, support and solidarity with the people.

PFLAG Panama, Parents, family and friends who want to share their experiences on “homosexuality” in a respectful and confidential space.  It is a group that promotes the health and well-being of gay, lesbian and transgender people through support to deal with a society that discriminates. It promotes openness and without prejudice, it fosters mutual understanding, respect, and willingness to listen, express your feelings and emotions and motivate one another to overcome, improve and thus feel like a member of a group, a new family.

New Horizons Association, an active and important support group, focuses on issues related to HIV / AIDS prevention, follow-up support for people with the disease, and strong activism in the face of inequality and respect for the human rights of Gay people. Union of Diversity is a pioneering foundation in Panama City whose goal is to achieve a change and unite the LGTB community by defending their rights. Since May 2016, its

commitment is directed as an international NGO consultancy to support the LGBT community throughout Latin America, especially in Brazil and Colombia.

The defense of the rights of the LGBT collective is a work of all, if we understand the world as a free, tolerant and supportive place. In my opinion, we must speak up against unpleasant and intolerant situations whenever we encounter them in Panama. There is much to do! Little by little, the injustices suffered by the LGBT community will gradually be eliminated until freedom and social normality are achieved.

We must seek cooperation that seeks a comprehensive and attentive approach towards addressing the various causes and consequences of violence, with special attention to the most vulnerable groups.

LGBT Celebrations & Places to go

Gay Pride is held annually in downtown Panama City, usually in June. The parade is sponsored by Asociación Hombres y Mujeres Nuevos de Panamá, Panama’s first and only lesbian and gay association. Along with thousands of citizens and prominent figures showing their support including Panama City Mayor Jose Isabel Blandon and the US ambassador for Panama, John Feeley.









Panama City Carnival the LGBT community participates in the Panama City Carnival on Tuesday of the Carnival week. There is a queen chosen every year to represent the community in the carnival.









LGBT Night life

Here is a list of the most popular places for the LGBT community:

Xscape is an upscale gay disco bar in the El Dorado Shopping Center next to a Pizza Hut, a taxi ride away from the city center, it has an intimate atmosphere but a small dance floor.

The Bellini Club turns into a gay disco Wednesdays 10 pm to 3 am, but the nightclub has other themes Thursday through Saturday. On Avenida Aquilino de la Guardia, it has a lounge bar, disco, VIP area and a stage for live shows.

Distincion is a private club with a rumba beat and the most centrally located gay disco in town in Plaza Paitilla Mall across from Multicentro Mall. Thursdays it’s an open bar all night with free cover from 9 pm to 11 pm and then from $5. Fridays and Saturdays feature a premium open bar for 10 pm to midnight, bottle promotions, $8-10 cover and live shows. Goes until 4 am.

BLG is the oldest and most upscale bar on the Panama gay club scene and draws men, women and straight couples. A $5 cover most nights, it features drag shows, electronic music, special events and comics. Look for the BLG sign and Colpan Ford agency on Via Transistmica. From 10 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

XS Club bar The Largest Gay Discotheque in Panama with the best show of lights and lasers, the best artistic productions and the best quality and ambiance of Panama City!

HamMan Sauna & Spa This gay sauna/bathhouse with gym, labyrinth Turkish bath, VIP relaxing rooms, massages is located near the National Lottery Building in Bella Vista.

Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast: We embrace diversity and welcome everybody.  Casa de Montaña is owned by Terry and Manzar a married gay couple. When you Book with us, you are free to be you.  We embrace diversity and welcome everybody!

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