Ecuador’s highest court has approved same-sex marriage in a landmark ruling.
The ruling, which was passed on Wednesday, saw human rights activists and the LGBT community erupt in celebration waving the rainbow flag that depicts the gay rights movement.
According to the Constitutional Court, same-sex marriage had been approved in a five-to-four vote of its nine judges in a closed door hearing.
Ecuador, a Catholic and Conservative South American country, joins Argentina, Brazil and Colombia in approving same-sex marriage.
The four dissenting judges argued that in order to recognize same-sex marriage, constitutional reform would have to be debated in the National Assembly.
Reacting to the ruling, Christian Paula of the Patka Foundation said, “It means that Ecuador is more egalitarian.
“It recognizes that human rights must be for all people without discrimination.”
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.
The men in one of those couples are named Efrain Soria and Javier Benalcazar.
“I want to say hello to Javier, who is in Guayaquil. Honey, I love you,” Soria told reporters in the capital Quito.
He urged other gays to stop hiding and “enjoy the happiness that comes from being equal, like anyone else.”
Ecuador’s current constitution defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman. The charter, ratified in 2008, also bars same-sex couples from adopting children.
But the judges that approved same-sex marriage said they based their decision on the idea that all people are equal. They also said they sought to counter any kind of discrimination
In Foch Plaza in downtown Quito, two women who have been fighting since 2013 for the right to marry staged a symbolic wedding right after the court decision was announced.
Pamela Troya and Gabriela Correa sat formally in chairs for the ceremony and when Troya was asked the big question, she said: “Today, I say yes. A big yes. A giant yes. I want to be your wife.”