Ecuador Becomes Sixth Latin American Country to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

Ecuador became the sixth Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage on June 12 after a decision by the country’s Constitutional Court. The landmark decisions comes on the heels of a long legal battle by two same-sex couples and gay rights activists.In a 5-4 ruling, Ecuador’s top court ruled in favor of two gay couples who had sued for their right to marry. Ecuador’s civil registry had denied couples that right, Reuters reported.

Five judges ruled that Quito’s marriage legislation was discriminatory and unconstitutional, while the dissenting judges argued that it was a decision for the government and not the court. CNN reported that the country’s National Assembly must officially change the constitution to redefine the institution of marriage. Efraín Soria, one of the plaintiffs in the case, told the Associated Press (AP) that he would begin planning his wedding to his longtime partner Xavier Benalcázar. The two men have been in a civil union since 2012. Same-sex couples will be able to marry once the constitutional court notifies the local government offices of the decision.

“This decision will likely have tremendous positive implications for LGBTQ people across the Hemisphere,” Human Rights Campaign Director of Global Partnerships Jean Freedberg said in a statement to The North Star.

“Even though it hasn’t yet gone into effect, the fact that Ecuador’s Constitutional Court ruled that the 2018 [Inter-American Court on Human Rights (IACHR)] advisory decision on marriage for Costa Rica applied in Ecuador, might have an impact on other countries in the region as well.”The IACHR, which was established by the Organization of American States, ruled in January 2018 that same-sex marriages should be recognized, the BBC reported. The court’s ruling applied to nations that signed the American Convention on Human Rights.

The court’s judges ruled that member countries “must recognize and guarantee all the rights that are derived from a family bond between people of the same sex.” Governments are required to “guarantee access to all existing forms of domestic legal systems, including the right to marriage, in order to ensure the protection of all the rights of families formed by same-sex couples without discrimination.” Ecuador recognized same-sex unions in 2015, a decision that gave same-sex couples the same rights as married couples except for adoption. The small South American country joined Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Uruguay in legalizing same-sex marriage through judicial rulings or legislative action, the AP reported. Same-sex marriage is recognized nationwide in Mexico, but it is illegal in the Mexican state of Tlaxcala. Meanwhile, in 2015 Chile legalized same-sex unions. Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet sent a same-sex marriage bill to Congress for debate in 2017.

Bolivia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Paraguay, and Peru — all signatories of the American Convention on Human Rights — do not recognize same-sex unions or marriages. Around the world, 26 other countries allow for same-sex marriage. A day before Ecuador legalized same-sex marriage, Botswana’s top court decriminalized homosexuality. Days earlier, Bhutan’s lower house voted in favor of a similar bill that would decriminalize homosexuality in the south Asian country.“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 the international LGBTQ rights group All Out told Reuters.

He continued: “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.” LGBTQ advocates have made significant strides in Ecuador since 2008, when a constitutional protection banned discrimination based on sexual orientation. Five years later, conversion therapy in rehabilitation institutions was made illegal, CNN reported. In 2015, changes in the country’s labor laws made it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees due to their sexual orientation.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.