On Wednesday 13th June, the Constitutional Court of Ecuador ruled in favour of marriage equality in a 5 – 4 decision.
Five of the nine judges argued that all people are equal and the current legislation is discriminatory and unconstitutional. Four judges believe the issue should be decided by the parliament. The verdict is binding and the court now has 10 days to notify the local government of the decision.
The verdict comes from two court cases bought by same-sex couples who want to be able to legally marry. Ecuador currently allows civil unions for same-sex couples, however these offer less rights than marriage.
Efraín Soria, head of LGBT rights group Fundación Ecuatoriana Equidad, and his partner, Xavier Benalcázar, were one of the couples who sued. They have been in a civil union since 2012.
The verdict is "a joy for our entire community and Ecuador,” said Soria, who told the Associated Press that he and Benalcázar will immediately begin planning their wedding.
Ecuador’s decision to allow same-sex marriage comes after the January 9, 2018 ruling by the Inter-American Court Of Human Rights that all states who are signatories to the American Convention On Human Rights 1969 must legislate marriage equality.
The 20 countries who have ratified the American Convention On Human Rights, also known as the Pact of San José, are Argentina, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Suriname, and Uruguay.
Only a few of those countries, like Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay, and some parts of Mexico already have marriage equality. Some countries, like Chile and Ecuador have civil unions, but many places do not recognise same-sex marriages at all.
The decision comes during Pride Month, just days after Botswana’s top court voted to decriminalize consensual same-sex relations and almost a week since the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan’s lower house voted to repeal a law which makes "unnatural sex" illegal. That bill now needs to pass the upper chamber before being sent for royal assent.
“The victories we’ve witnessed in the last couple of weeks will improve the lives of millions of LGBT+ people around the world,” Mathias Wasik, director of programs at international LGBT rights group All Out, told Reuters.
“We’re witnessing an important moment in history as these victories will send out positive shockwaves across the world and inspire more activists to continue their fight for LGBT+ rights.”