Costa Rica’s Supreme Court has ruled against allowing a referendum on whether gay couples should be permitted to have civil unions.

The referendum was supported by Catholic groups but the court said that the majority should not decide the rights of a minority.

Instead, the court said, such rights should be granted by politicians and the courts.

According to AFP, the ruling stated: “Minority rights that are derived from claims against the majority cannot be subject to a referendum process where majorities are needed.”

Costa Rica, which is a Catholic country, was expected to reject civil unions in the vote which was to be held in December.

Civil unions legislation was introduced in 2008 but has stalled. In its current form, the draft legislation would offer gay couples some of the rights available to heterosexuals, such as those related to inheritance, health insurance and hospital visits.

The court’s decision cannot be appealed.