Ecuador’s highest court has approved same-sex marriage in a landmark ruling in the small and traditionally Catholic country.
The Court said same-sex marriage had been approved in a five-to-four vote of its nine judges in a closed hearing.
Ecuador, where the church is very influential, thus joins Argentina, Brazil and Colombia in recognising same-sex marriage.
The four dissenting judges argued that in order to recognise same-sex marriage, constitutional reform would have to be debated in the National Assembly.
“It means Ecuador is more egalitarian,” lawyer Christian Paula of the Patka Foundation, which provides legal advice for same-sex couples looking to marry in the country, said.
“It recognises that human rights must be for all people without discrimination.”
The decision came as the court ruled on lawsuits by two male couples who wanted to wed.
Speaking to reporters in Quito, one of the men, Efrain Soria, urged others to stop hiding and “enjoy the happiness that comes from being equal, like anyone else”.
Soria, who is also the president of the Ecuadorian Equality Foundation, an LGBT rights group, said the ruling is “a joy for our entire community and for Ecuador”.