Ecuador's high court ruled Wednesday in favor of marriage equality. The landmark 5-4 decision came after a private hearing, according to Agence France-Presse.
The move comes in a Catholic-dominated nation and brings Ecuador in line with modern South American nations Colombia, Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina.
"It means that Ecuador is more egalitarian," said lawyer Christian Paula of the Patka Foundation. "It is more just than yesterday, that it recognizes that human rights must be for all people without discrimination."
Civil unions have been recognized in the nation since 2015. Two couples sued the government saying that was not enough.
Efrain Soria, one of the plaintiffs and president of the Ecuadorian Equality Foundation, celebrated the ruling as "a joy for our entire community and for Ecuador," according to Al Jazeera.
He hoped the ruling would encourage more Ecuadorans to come out and live in the open now that the court has geven legal validation to unions.
"Enjoy the happiness that comes from being equal, like anyone else," he told reporters.
The ruling goes against a constitutional provision in place since 2008 that defines marriage as between a man and a woman, but the court majority said it denies equal rights to all individuals.
The Inter-American Court on Human Rights issued a ruling that laid legal groundwork for the ruling, which instructs lawmakers in Ecuador to now pass legislation establishing marriage equality.