People waved rainbow flags in the streets of Quito. Gay couples kissed. They were celebrating the decision on June 12th by Ecuador’s constitutional court to legalise same-sex marriage. Ecuador is now the eighth country in the Americas to take that step. Its constitution explicitly defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The court therefore had to rule that one part of the constitution—which holds that citizens are entitled to equal treatment under the law—outweighs the part that defines marriage.

Less than a third of Ecuadoreans support gay marriage, a poll in 2017 found. Conservatives ask why unelected judges should dictate to a whole country what a family means. In a dissenting opinion four of the nine judges in Ecuador said that the legislature, not the court, should resolve the constitutional contradiction.

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