After sending mixed signals on the issue, President Rafael Correa says the country is ready to grant full rights to same-sex couples. Beginning September 15, same-sex couples will receive the same benefits that their married heterosexual counterparts already enjoy.
“If someone is still turned away by a government employee, that employee will be dismissed for denying constitutional rights,” Correa told South American television network Telesur.
Same-sex couples will still not be permitted to legally marry in Ecuador — a policy reflected through much of South America, except for Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay, which have enacted marriage equality.
In comments over the last three years, Correa has said on a number of occasions that the country faced larger issues than gays and lesbian rights, including elimination of poverty and improvement of education. Correa, who calls himself a progressive socialist, admits that he is a devout Catholic and believes in the church’s teachings.
Although it doesn’t symbolize complete legal and social equality, LGBT advocates in Ecuador hailed the news as a significant step forward.
“It’s like giving us full citizenship,” Diane Rodriguez, a trans and feminist activist with Ecuadorian group X-Sillhouette, told ThinkProgress. “For example, in emergencies, my partner can make decisions about my health care at a hospital. Or at the bank, we can open a joint account. Before this, couples had a lot of problems because they had no documents to prove they were married.”
Just 17 years ago, homosexuality was illegal in the South American nation, but since then, Ecuador has been on the cutting edge of the slow bu steady global march toward LGBT equality. Both of Ecuador’s latest constitutions — one adopted in 1998 and a newer version that replaced it via popular referendum in 2008 — include recognition of LGBT Ecuadorians as a protected class of people.
The Social Inclusion Index of 2014, released annually by the Americas Society and Council of the Americas, ranked Ecuador just below the United States and Mexico in terms of protecting LGBT rights. Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina all tied for first place on the LGBT rights portion of the index, beating out the U.S., Mexico, and Ecuador in that category.
President Correa’s announcement comes just days after an LGBT group met with him to discuss its report documenting discrimination suffered by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Ecuador because of the lack of recognition of same-sex partnerships, according to ThinkProgress.
Photo caption: President Rafael Correa.