Same-sex marriage in Ecuador

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Same-sex marriage in Ecuador has been legal since 8 July 2019, following a Constitutional Court ruling that the country's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional under the Constitution of Ecuador. The ruling took effect upon publication in the official registry. Ecuador became the fifth South American country to allow same-sex couples to marry.

The country has also recognized same-sex civil unions since 2008.

Civil unions[edit]

First Ecuadorian lesbian couple to register a civil partnership

Since the early 20th century, opposite-sex civil unions, available after two years of cohabition, have been granted the same rights as civil marriages. In the late 19th century, the liberal revolution led by Eloy Alfaro established the separation of church and state in the country. Since the consolidation of this separation in the first decades of the 20th century, only civil marriage or unions have been recognized by the state.[citation needed]

During debate over the 2008 Ecuadorian Constitution, LGBT organizations campaigned for the inclusion of same-sex civil unions,[1][2] which were eventually included in Article 68 of the Constitution, despite protests from the Catholic Church and evangelical groups.[3] Under the text of the new Constitution, the only difference between same-sex and opposite-sex unions is that adoptions by same-sex couples are not permitted; adoption rights are the same for civil unions as for civil marriages, but do not extend to same-sex unions.[4] Protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation had already been introduced in the 1998 Constitution, Ecuador being among the first three countries in the world to adopt such a constitutional protection.[5]

President Rafael Correa stated that he wanted the document to allow same-sex unions, saying that "the profoundly humanistic position of this government is to respect the intrinsic dignity of everyone, of every human being, independently of their creed, race, sexual preference. We will give certain guarantees to stable gay couples but matrimony will continue being reserved for a man, a woman and the family. Every person has dignity, that's to say, one must respect a person independently of their sexual preference. Be careful not to deny employment to someone because of their sexual preference. That is discrimination, that is unconstitutional."[6][7]

The Constitution was approved in a referendum by 69.46%, and was officially recorded on 20 October 2008.[8][9][10][11] The first same-sex union was recognised in August 2009.[12][13][14][15][16]

Text of Article 68 of the Ecuador Constitution[edit]

In Spanish: Art. 68.- "La unión estable y monogámica entre dos personas libres de vínculo matrimonial que formen un hogar de hecho, por el lapso y bajo las condiciones y circunstancias que señale la ley, generará los mismos derechos y obligaciones que tienen las familias constituidas mediante matrimonio. La adopción corresponderá sólo a parejas de distinto sexo."[a]

That is: "The stable and monogamous union between two persons, free of matrimonial bond, who form a de facto couple, for the duration and under the conditions and circumstances that the law provides, will generate the same rights and obligations as held by families built through marriage. Adoption will pertain only to couples of different sexes."

Subsequent changes[edit]

Although civil unions were legalised in the 2008 Constitution, they were not formally recognized as a civil status until 15 September 2014, when the Directorate General of the Civil Registry began registering them nationwide. Three cities, Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca, had already begun recognizing civil unions prior to September 2014.[20]

On 21 April 2015, the National Assembly voted in favor of a bill codifying civil unions into statute law, by a vote of 89–1.[21][22] The bill also removed the requirement to have lived together for two years. President Rafael Correa signed it into law on 19 June 2015.[23]


By January 2018, 15,992 de facto unions had been registered in Ecuador, of which 3% were to same-sex couples.[24]

Same-sex marriage[edit]

Recognition of same-sex unions in South America
  Other type of partnership
  Country subject to IACHR ruling (Venezuela: only Guaidó administration accepts jurisdiction of IACHR)[25]
  Constitution limits marriage to opposite-sex couples
  Same-sex sexual activity illegal, though penalties not enforced

Under Article 67 of the 2008 Constitution, "marriage is the union between man and woman based on the free consent of the parties and their equal rights, obligations and legal capacity."[b][26] However, on 12 June 2019, the Constitutional Court ruled that the article was unenforceable and void.[27]


During a series of interviews with local newspaper El Universo before the 2013 Ecuadorian general election, two of the eight presidential candidates expressed their support for same-sex marriage: leftist candidates Alberto Acosta,[28] from the Plurinational Unity of the Lefts, and Norman Wray,[29] from the Ruptura 25 movement. President Rafael Correa did not participate in the interviews.[30] However, in a 2011 interview for Radio France Internationale, Correa said that he "couldn't accept" same-sex marriage or abortion, although when asked if he would oppose legislation legalizing either of them, he referred only to abortion when saying that he would certainly oppose it.[31] On 17 February 2013, President Correa was reelected by a wide margin.[32] On 23 May 2013, Correa reiterated his opposition to same-sex marriage.[33]

On 4 March 2016, the Provincial Government of Azuay unanimously approved an ordinance allowing symbolic same-sex marriages.[34] The ordinance allowed same-sex couples to register their marriage with the Azuay Provincial Civil Registry, but the marriages were only symbolic, with no legal effect.[35][36] The first symbolic same-sex marriage was held in late June 2016 in Cuenca.[37]

Before the 2017 presidential election, Paco Moncayo, candidate for the Democratic Left, said there should be a national debate on the legalisation of same-sex marriage.[38] The election was eventually won by Lenín Moreno, whose position on same-sex marriage was unknown, as he had refused to answer questions on the issue from activist Pamela Troya.[39]

Legalization process[edit]

Santiago Vinces and Fernando Saltos on their way to the Guayaquil Civil Registry, as part of the Matrimonio Civil Igualitario campaign.

On 5 August 2013, LGBT rights groups launched a nationwide campaign under the name Matrimonio Civil Igualitario (Equal Civil Marriage), seeking to legalize same-sex marriage in the country.[40] A marriage petition was launched by activist Pamela Troya and her partner at the Civil Registry of Quito.[41][42] The petition was rejected days later, citing the country's Constitution and Civil Code. The couple announced on 8 August that they would file a lawsuit asking a judge to order the Civil Registry to marry them.[43][44][45] The lawsuit was filed on 13 August 2013,[46][47] for review by the Constitutional Court, and focused heavily on the Inter-American Court of Human Rights case of Atala Riffo and Daughters v. Chile, which held that sexual orientation is a suspect classification.

On 26 August 2013, a different couple went to the Guayaquil Civil Registry asking to be married.[48] The couple, Santiago Vinces and Fernando Saltos, marched through the city to the Civil Registry with a convoy of activists and supporters, including actress Érika Vélez.[49][50][51][52][53] Their marriage petition was denied three days later, citing the same reasons given to the first couple.[54][55]

2018 Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling[edit]

On 8 January 2018, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) ruled that the American Convention on Human Rights mandates and requires the recognition of same-sex marriage. The ruling was fully binding on Costa Rica and set binding precedent in other Latin American and Caribbean countries, including Ecuador.[56][57] LGBT advocacy groups in Ecuador urged the government to abide by the ruling and legalise same-sex marriage.[58]

June 2018 rulings[edit]

Following the IACHR ruling, two same-sex couples went to the Civil Registry in Cuenca to apply for marriage licenses. After both were rejected, they filed separate suits in court arguing that the refusal to recognise their marriage was discriminatory, unconstitutional and a violation of the American Convention on Human Rights. Citing the IACHR ruling, two family judges ruled in the couples' favour on 29 June 2018. The judges ordered the Civil Registry to immediately begin registering same-sex marriages, but the Civil Registry appealed against the decision. The two cases had the support of the Azuay Provincial Government.[59][60][61] On 10 September 2018, the Labor Chamber of the Provincial Court of Justice overturned both decisions, stating that the issue of same-sex marriage should be handled by the National Assembly or the Constitutional Court.[62]

Constitutional Court ruling[edit]

On 28 July 2018, the president of the Constitutional Court, Alfredo Ruiz, said he believed that a majority of judges were in favour of legalizing same-sex marriage.[63]

On 29 March 2019, a public hearing was held to determine whether the advisory opinion OC 24/7 issued by the IACHR on same-sex marriage was applicable to Ecuador, and whether it could be applied without an amendment to the Constitution, the Organic Law of Identity and Civil Data Management (Spanish: Ley Orgánica de Identidad y Gestión de Datos Civiles), and the Civil Code. The case was accepted by the Constitutional Court on 6 March 2019, following a request from the judges of the Criminal Chamber of the Provincial Court of Justice of Pichincha, regarding the case of the civil marriage of Efraín Soria and his partner Javier Benalcázar. The Constitutional Court had 45 days to issue a response and resolve the case.[64][65][66]

On 20 May 2019, another public hearing was held on a different same-sex marriage case.[67][68]

A ruling in the cases was originally set for 4 June 2019,[69] but was delayed as the judges were not able to reach a decision after several hours of discussion, and announced that they would continue to convene over the following days.[70] The court issued two rulings on the matter, on 12 June 2019, both by a 5-4 margin, in favour of the plaintiffs, thus legalising same-sex marriage.[71][72] In the first one, the court held that the IACHR January 2018 ruling is fully binding on Ecuador and takes precedence over Ecuadorian domestic law.[73] In a second ruling, the court re-wrote Article 81 of the country's Civil Code to read "Marriage is a solemn contract by which two persons join together with the end to live together and mutually help each other", as well as Article 52 of the Organic Law of Identity and Civil Data Management. The rulings are immediate and apply nationwide. The court ruled that Article 67 of the Constitution must be interpreted in the sense that most favors the full validity of rights.[74] On 14 June, the president of the Constitutional Court, Hernán Salgado Pesantes, said in a press conference that a reform to the Constitution was not necessary, and that the Assembly should reform the secondary laws as soon as possible.[75] The ruling also mandated that same-sex couples be allowed to marry in Ecuadorian consulates and other diplomatic offices worldwide, as long as one partner is a citizen of Ecuador. The rulings took effect upon publication in the Official Registry on 8 July 2019.[76][77]

Reaction to the ruling was mixed. Human rights groups and LGBT activists welcomed and celebrated the ruling, with Christian Paula of the Pakta Foundation, who had provided legal advice to several of the couples, saying that the ruling "implies that Ecuador is more egalitarian, more just than yesterday, and that it recognizes that human rights must fit all people without discrimination". In particular, LGBT activists noted that the wording used in the ruling would likely result in the legalisation of same-sex marriage in numerous other Latin American nations under the jurisdiction of the IACHR, even if they currently have a constitutional ban in place. The IACHR itself also welcomed the ruling.[78] The Catholic Church expressed opposition to the ruling.[79]

In a national broadcast aired on 20 June, President Lenín Moreno expressed his respect for the decision of the Constitutional Court, saying, "our duty, as citizens, and my own, as President, is to respect the decisions of all the functions and organs of the State. I maintain my absolute respect for what has been done by the Constitutional Court, which is composed of serious and honest judges."[80]

The first marriage occurred on 18 July in Guayaquil between Michelle Avilés and Alexandra Chávez.[81]


122 same-sex marriages took place in Ecuador in the first year of legalisation; 77 between male couples and 45 between lesbian couples.[82]

Public opinion[edit]

According to a Pew Research Center survey, conducted between 7 November 2013 and 26 January 2014, 16% of Ecuadorians supported same-sex marriage, and 74% were opposed.[83][84]

According to the 2014 AmericasBarometer (published in June 2015), 16.5% of Ecuadorians were in favour of same-sex marriage.[85]

The 2017 AmericasBarometer poll showed that 33% of Ecuadorians supported same-sex marriage.[86]

A July 2019 survey conducted by the Vanderbilt University showed that 51.3% of the Ecuador public opposed same-sex marriage, 36.8% "strongly". The poll found a significant age gap; 68.5% of the Silent Generation were opposed, followed by 62.5% of Baby boomers, 54.1% of Generation X, 42% of Millennials and 16.7% of Generation Z.[87]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ In Quechua: Kawsankapa tinkunakuyka, shuk kari, shuk warmi mana sawarishka tantarishkallami tukun, shinapash shuk ayllumi wallparin; kayka shuk pachata, arinishkakuna ukupi, kamachiy shuk kutinlla nishkami kan. Shinapash sawarishpa ayllu wallparishkakunapak hayñikunata, mañayta charishkatami hapin. Shukpak wawata wakchushpa wiñachinaka shuk kari, shuk warmi sawarishka, tantarishkapakllami kanka.[17][18]
    In Shuar: Tsaniniamuka chikichkijiainkiti, ankant natsa ania, tuke nuatnaikia atiniaiti umitiai umpuarma tana aintsank, máshi nuatnaikiar matsatainia aintsank pujusartiniaiti. Uchirimmiaka nuájai aishmank uchinkia tsakátmartin Ainiawai.[19]
  2. ^ In Spanish: El matrimonio es la unión entre hombre y mujer, se fundará en el libre consentimiento de las personas contrayentes y en la igualdad de sus derechos, obligaciones y capacidad legal.
    In Quechua: Sawarinaka shuk karintin, shuk warmintin tinkunakuymi kan, kayka sawarikkuna kishpiyrishka shunkumanta munaypi, paktapakta hayñipi, manunakuypi, yuyay huntashkapi tiksirishkami kanka.
    In Shuar: Nuatnaiyamuka nuajai aishmankaiti, nii yajai pujustinia wakera nunisank atiniaiti métek nuniniak imiantrinkia ainiawai.


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  2. ^ (in Spanish) El Universo. Uniones homosexuales en el país son un hecho aun sin ley. Retrieved 15 May 2013.
  3. ^ (in Spanish) Nueva Constitución reconoce unión gay y lésbica Retrieved 15 May 2013.
  4. ^ CONSTITUCIÓN DEL ECUADOR Archived 20 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ ""Shutting Down Clinics that 'Cure Homosexuality' in Ecuador", The Human Rights Brief, Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, reported by Christina Fetterhoff, 28 November 2011".
  6. ^ Materville Studios – Host of Windy City Times. "Ecuadorean president supports same-sex partnerships". Retrieved 18 December 2011.
  7. ^ (in Spanish) Presidente Correa: Ecuador es un estado laico que debe respetar todas las creencias. Retrieved 15 May 2013.
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External links[edit]