Marriage equality for same-sex couples has arrived in Ecuador thanks to a ruling issued last week by two judges in a family court. Even though the country’s Civil Registry may not be prepared to offer a separate procedure for same-sex weddings, the ruling requires they begin to do so immediately.
The ruling came about following a decision in favor of marriage equality last year by the Inter-American Court of Human Right. Though it was a response to a case from Costa Rica, that court’s rulings have implications for as many as 20 countries across Central and South America that have membership of the Organization of American States.
Two same-sex couples represented by the Feminist Legal Collective of Cuenca sought recognition for their marriages in accordance with the Inter-American Court’s ruling. Judges Iliana Vallejo and Ruth Alvarez agreed that the Civil Registry should have approved their applications for marriage licenses. The fact that the Registry did not have a process for approving the marriage, they ruled, was not a sufficient excuse to justify the denial.
The Civil Registry has appealed the decision, and a higher court will likely still have to assess the case because Ecuador’s constitution defines marriage as being between one man and one woman. The Inter-American ruling supersedes this, but the discrepancies still have to be resolved.
The ruling makes Ecuador the 25th country in the world to offer same-sex marriage licenses to its citizens. As the impact of the Inter-American ruling continues to ripple out, many more countries in Central and South America may follow.