Ecuador Legalizes Marriage Equality Amidst Promising LGBTQ Progress

Ecuador has been pulling in major press coverage since its Highest Court ruled to recognize same-sex marriage last week. After six years of litigation, Ecuador’s Supreme Court judges ruled in favor of same-sex couples who were denied marriage licenses by a 5-to-4 vote.

The Ecuadorian National Election Council (CNE in Spanish) invited the LGBTQ Victory Institute to serve as international observers in Ecuador’s 2019 local elections. The Victory Institute put together an LGBTQ delegation of 5 observers; their goal was to monitor the elections and provide recommendations regarding LGBTQ political participation. The Ecuadorian National Election Council sent each member of the delegation to different Ecuadorian provinces. They met with LGBTQ candidates and members of the general public while also observing the polls on election day. The objective was to learn about the status of LGBTQ candidates and voters in the country.

This week, the Victory Institute delivered a report to the electoral authorities in charge of international observations. The report points out that despite all the diversity and cultural heritage in Ecuador, the institutional agenda leaves out LGBTQ people. Official events rarely mention the LGBTQ community, and electoral authorities still have a limited knowledge of concepts about gender identity and sexual orientation.

Victory’s Delegation of International Observers recommendations to the CNE included providing further training about gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation to the permanent and temporary staff involved in elections. Additionally, Victory recommended increasing the awareness of the diversity present among candidates, so their institutions can protect them from discrimination.

During the elections, the Observers Delegation noticed that every polling place in Ecuador had two different lines:  one for men and one for women. Election authorities divided voters by their gender and only allowed them to vote in their designated voting booth. In the report, Victory’s delegation of observers suggested that Ecuadorian electoral authorities discontinue this practice. This is because the practice reinforces the binary stereotype and leaves non-binary folks in limbo. Furthermore, it leaves out trans people who have not had the opportunity to update their identification documents. The Victory delegation reminded the CNE in its report that every person should be able to vote, no matter their gender identity and expression.

The electoral authorities in Ecuador welcomed an LGBTQ delegation of observers, conveying their openness to equality. With this welcoming and the landmark marriage equality ruling, there is no doubt that Ecuador’s institutions are finally moving towards universal equality.