Ecuador’s highest court approved same-sex marriage Wednesday — a huge milestone for the LGBTQ community in the traditionally Catholic and conservative country.
Judges on Quito’s constitutional court ruled five to four to give same-sex couples equal rights, following several lengthy lawsuits by same-sex couples and activists. The four dissenting judges argued that changes to the constitution should be debated in parliament.
Ecuador joins only a handful of Latin American nations — Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Columbia and Uruguay — that have legalized same-sex marriage. The decision comes during the annual World Pride Month, which coincides this year with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, the beginning of the gay rights movement.
Plaintiff Efraín Soria told reporters that he would immediately begin planning a wedding with his partner, Xavier Benalcázar. The couple has been together for 12 years and in a civil union since 2012.
While same-sex civil unions have been legal in Ecuador for several years, those couples did not receive the same legal rights and benefits as married couples. The AP reports the court ruling instructs congress to pass legislation ensuring equal treatment for all under the country’s marriage law.
Celebrations erupted across the country after the landmark ruling. The decision is “a joy for our entire community and Ecuador,” Soria, who is also president of the Ecuadorian Equality Foundation, an LGBTQ rights group, told The AP.
Just a day earlier, Botswana decriminalized gay sex in a landmark case for Africa. In May, Taiwan’s legislature passed a law allowing same-sex marriage, a first for Asia.
According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association’s 2019 roundup, consensual same-sex sex acts are still officially or unofficially criminalized in 70 U.N. member nations. The same report said the death penalty could still be implemented for consensual same-sex sexual acts in at least 10 nations around the world.
Image: Javier Benalcazar, left, and his partner Efrain Soria kiss as they arrive outside the Constitutional Court to hear the final decision on same-sex marriage, in Quito, Ecuador. “If our marriage is approved we will be happy, and it will be our reward. If not, we will continue to fight.” Soria said.