Ecuador’s highest court on Wednesday approved same-sex marriage in a landmark ruling in the traditionally Catholic and conservative South American country.
LGBT and human rights activists erupted in celebration in Quito and the port city of Guayaquil, waving the rainbow flags that symbolize the gay rights movement.
The Constitutional Court said same-sex marriage had been approved in a five-to-four vote of its nine judges in a closed-door hearing.
Ecuador, where the church is very influential, thus joins Argentina, Brazil and Colombia in recognizing same-sex marriage.
“It means that Ecuador is more egalitarian,” said lawyer Christian Paula of the Patka Foundation, which provides legal advice for around 10 same-sex couples seeking to marry in the country.
“It recognizes that human rights must be for all people without discrimination.”
The four dissenting judges argued that in order to recognize same-sex marriage, constitutional reform would have to be debated in the National Assembly.
Gustavo Medina, a former Supreme Court president, told AFP that Ecuadoran authorities were obliged to abide by decisions of the Constitutional Court, which were “binding and mandatory.”
Ecuador has recognized de facto civil unions for same-sex couples since 2015.
The Constitutional Court approved same-sex marriage as it ruled on lawsuits by two pairs of men who wanted to wed.