Starting on the 15th of September, same-sex couples in Ecuador will be able to officially register their civil union and have it noted on their national ID cards. Though same-sex marriage remains illegal, the move brings with it a whole host of financial and legal benefits.
“If there was any doubt about heterosexual or same-sex civil unions being put on national ID cards, there is none any more,” President Rafael Correa said on the South American network Telesur. “And if someone is still turned away by a government employee, that employee will be dismissed for denying constitutional rights.”
The announcement came just days after Correa met with gay and trans rights leaders and received a report from them entitled “Access to Justice and Human Rights for the LGBT community,” which documented many cases of discrimination throughout the country that stemmed from the lack of legal recognition for same-sex couples.
One of the participants in that meeting, trans-feminist activist Diane Rodriguez with the organization “X Silhouette,” told ThinkProgress the new resolution is “a huge step forward” for the country.
“It’s like giving us full citizenship,” she said. “For example, in emergencies, my partner can make decisions about my health care at a hospital. Or at the bank, we can open a joint account. Before this, couples had a lot of problems because they had no documents to prove they were married.”
Rodriguez noted, however, that without full marriage equality, same sex couples in Ecuador still cannot jointly adopt children. And while President Correa has promised to continue combating discrimination and homophobia, he has repeatedly said he does not support granting marriage rights for the LGBT citizens of his country.
“It’s been a slow process,” said Rodriguez, “but we have to give thanks for what we have achieved.”
Until 1997, homosexuality was a crime in Ecuador, punishable by jail time. A constitutional amendment in 1998 added sexual orientation and gender identity to the ban on discrimination against persons on account of their race, age, color, language, political affiliation, economic position and health status. Ecuador was the first country in the Americas and one of the first in the world to make the LGBT community a protected class. The 2008 Constitution went further, guaranteeing all Ecuadorians “the rights to physical, moral, and sexual integrity of person, as well as freedom of expression of sexual orientation.”
While discrimination in employment, housing, education and health care against LGBT persons is theoretically punishable by law, but “X Silhouette” and other groups say it still persists today.