Congrats, Ecuador! In a Pride month surprise, Ecuador’s highest court today found that same-sex marriage should be permitted in the country. The lawsuits that prompted the ruling were filed by two same-sex couples who wanted to marry but were unable to in the traditionally Catholic country. Five members of the court voted in favor of allowing same-sex marriage, while four members of the court voted that the issue should be decided by the legislature after a debate in parliament. The majority judges said they based their decision on the idea that all people are equal and that allowing same-sex marriage would avoid discrimination.
One of the lawsuits was brought by couple Efraín Soria and Javier Benalcázar, who have been together for 12 years but were unable to marry in Ecuador. Soria is the head of the LGBT rights group Ecuadorean Equality Foundation. After the decision was released, Soria celebrated in the street and told reporters that he hoped other gay people in Ecuador would now stop hiding and “enjoy the happiness that comes from being equal, like anyone else,” according to BBC News. Benalcázar said that he felt “emotional after so much struggle.”
Lawyer and activist Cristhian Paula told CNN that the ruling “recognizes a historic fight for equality in which every citizen has the same rights,” and that “an institution like marriage is no longer used as an excuse to segregate and discriminate” against LGBTQ people.
As soon as the decision was announced, celebrations erupted in the capital, Quito, and Ecuador’s second-largest city, Guayaquil. The decision of the high court is binding, but the National Assembly will still be required to officially change the laws defining marriage. Meanwhile, couples will be able to start getting married as soon as the constitutional court notifies local government officials of the decision, which should happen within ten days.