Ecuador takes big step for LGBT rights, recognizing civil unions

Ecuador has taken an important step forward in supporting the rights of its LGBT citizens. It will now allow for same-sex civil unions to be…
Ecuador takes big step for LGBT rights, recognizing civil unions

This second gay pride march ever in the coastal town of Machala in Ecuador was met with some police opposition, while the one from the year before was shut down by authorities. However, the country is making strides in LGBT strides, and same-sex unions are being recognized on ID cards. (Machala Gay Pride/Flickr)

Ecuador has taken an important step forward in supporting the rights of its LGBT citizens. It will now allow for same-sex civil unions to be displayed on national identification cards.

SEE ALSO: Mexico City’s nonchalance toward gay marriage in catching on in Latin America

While gay marriage continues to be illegal, and this situation is not likely to change in the near future due to President Rafael Correa’s personal beliefs, his recent decision nonetheless deserves to be seen as a positive development in the Lesbian Gay Transgender and Sexual community. LGBT rights remain under threat in many countries–most notably Uganda. Hence, it’s a positive development that Quito has taken a significant progressive step toward greater equality among its citizens.

ID cards will recognize gay unions

Equality among Ecuadorans regardless of gender and sexual preferences has gained momentum in recent years. The 2008 Constitution, written a year after Correa first came into power, declares that Ecuadorans have the right to “personal integrity, which includes physical, psychological, moral and sexual integrity.” (Art. 66, section 3).

Ecuador held its first same-sex civil union  via a civilian magistrate in 2010.

More recently, this past Saturday, August 23, President Correa announced that Ecuadorans who are in same-sex civil unions will now be able to include this status in their ID cards. The measure is called Resolution 0174, and it was drafted by Ecuador’s Directorate General of Civil Registration. This change is optional for all Ecuadorans and will become available on September 15.

During remarks made to the TV station Telesur on Saturday, Correa stated that “if there was any doubt about heterosexual or same-sex civil unions being put on national ID cards, there is none any more […] and if someone is still turned away by a government employee, that employee will be dismissed for denying constitutional rights.”

Trans-feminist activist Diane Rodriguez, who works with the organization “X Silhouette,” praised the Resolution, explaining that “it’s like giving us full citizenship […] For example, in emergencies, my partner can make decisions about my health care at a hospital.”

Same presidential ideology in Ecuador?

Nevertheless, while the ID option is an important initiative, we should not expect another major breakthrough, like the legalization of gay marriage, any time soon. President Correa is known as a conservative Catholic who has openly stated he doesn’t support gay marriage. The aforementioned 2008 Constitution highlights that “marriage” is interpreted as the union between a man and a woman (Art. 67), while adoption is only available for couples of different genders (Art. 68).

In other words, while Quito allows civil unions, limits remain to the rights that same-sex couples can enjoy.

Ecuador Rafael Correa

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa delivers a nationally televised speech from the government palace in Quito. Correa favored recognizing same-sex unions in Ecuador, but stopped short of allowing gay marriage. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

In 2013, President Correa highlighted how his government has worked towards greater equality and protection of the country’s LGBT community.

Nevertheless, referring to gay marriage, he also remarked that, “we have many problems that are more urgent than dealing with issues where there is a lot of controversy.” Such declarations highlight that while the leader of the Andean nation supports recognizing the civil unions of same-sex citizens, there are still “lines in the sand” that he’s not willing to cross.

It is important to keep in mind that President Correa was re-elected for a new presidential term in the country’s February 2013 elections and there are already rumors that he may run again in 2017. It is likely that if he runs again he will be re-elected, hence the illegality of gay marriage in Ecuador is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

Latin America’s Cultural Revolution

It’s interesting that in recent years, several Latin American governments have taken a friendlier attitude towards the rights of their LGBT citizens, including gay marriage. In 2010 Argentina became the first Latin American state that legalized it, a decision which was followed by Uruguay in 2013. Moreover, even if some national governments have not agreed to recognize gay marriage, some cities have agreed to do this. Case in point is Mexico City, which recognized gay marriage in 2009.

On the other hand, some regional governments still do not support the idea of same-sex marriage. Most notably is the case of Colombia: In April 2013 the Colombian Senate voted against a bill that sought to legalize gay marriage (the vote was 17 in favor and 51 against).

From Mexico to Argentina, Latin America is undergoing a cultural revolution. While the region may still be qualified as “conservative” from a religious standpoint (particularly when compared to the U.S. or Western Europe) there have been obvious important developments in recent years. Gay marriage is now legal in various nations to one degree or another, while Uruguay became the first regional government to legalize marihuana in 2013. Ecuador’s decision to recognize same-sex civil unions in its ID cards is the latest development of this ongoing trend.

Though Latin America continues to be divided in factions based on political ideologies or trade preferences, there is a strong momentum behind a new way of thinking in the Western Hemisphere’s culture.

SEE ALSO: From Havana to Quito: A refugee’s fight for gay rights in Cuba