Ecuador’s Top Court Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

On June 12th, Ecuador’s Constitutional Court announced the approval of same-sex marriage after five of the nine judges voted in favour during a closed-door hearing, Al Jazeera reports. This decision was initiated after two gay couples hoping to be married were denied by the country’s civil registry and sued, ABC News reports. Al Jazeera writes that Ecuador is the 27th country to legalize same-sex marriage, joining other South American nations like Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay.

Understandably the LGBT community is ecstatic with this outcome which adds momentum to the growing global trend of LGBT acceptance and broader human rights. According to ABC News, Mathias Wasik from international LGBT rights group All Out stated, “we’re witnessing an important moment in history as these victories will send out positive shockwaves across the world and inspire more activists to continue their fight for LGBT rights.”

It is a landmark ruling for a traditionally Catholic country and signals the paving of a more egalitarian future for Ecuador. However, the nation’s constitution currently limits marriage to being between a man and a woman. The four judges who opposed the ruling cited the need for constitutional reform. The constitution was amended in 1997 to implement anti-discrimination laws and again in 2008 to allow civil unions. Yet, couples’ rights remain limited and even exclude adoption, Al Jazeera reports. This may be cause for concern, as Human Rights Watch LGBT rights researcher Neela Ghosal warns, “whenever there’s progress, there are always steps backward.” Despite much celebration over the new law, there are still dissenting voices at large. For instance, right-wing Christian group, the Life and Family movement, vehemently oppose the law without amendments to the 2008 constitution, ABC News writes. Constitutional reform is required to solidify and extend LGBT rights to those of heterosexual individuals and eliminate room for ambiguity around what is and isn’t accepted.

Around the world, it has been a momentous Pride Month commemorating the 50th anniversary since the Stonewall Riots in the United States – the event hailed as initiating the global gay rights movement. Just one day before this decision, Botswana’s highest court voted to decriminalise homosexuality while Bhutan’s government is moving to do the same.  However, the tremendous challenges still facing the global LGBT community cannot be overlooked. According to ABC News, there are still 68 nations where homosexuality is punishable by law, but favourable laws are only one piece of the solution. While Brunei reversed their death penalty for homosexuality, the Bruneian LGBT community remains vulnerable to harsh punishments.

Laws do not prevent the inception of hateful thoughts, they merely decide when to punish thoughts which manifest into hateful actions. Education is the basis upon which we form our beliefs and religious institutions still have a significant role in education around the world. For instance, last week the Vatican rejected terms such as “intersex” and “transgender” in an official document intended for sex education in Catholic schools globally. This literally sends the message that such ideas and ways of life are not real and will not be tolerated under the Catholic church.  While not everyone will carry these beliefs through life, a large portion will. If they don’t understand the LGBT+ community, how can they empathise with them? Religious institutions like the Catholic church on a large scale and even local churches, mosques and synagogues have a significant opportunity to challenge the narrative around the LGBT community and to focus on the human rights of every individual over perceived “right” and “wrong” sexual orientation or identification. This is not an easy task, but I do believe that it is possible and necessary to adapt to modern society.

The global LGBT+ community will not disappear and cannot be ignored, so let’s open the hearts and minds of our children to create a better future for everyone.

Emma Appleton