The ruling could be a step toward Bolivia legalising same-sex marriages.

A Bolivian court has struck down a ruling from officials against a same-sex couple who wished to have their union registered. The ruling came from a junior court in the country, the Second Constitutional Chamber of the La Paz Court of Justice.

The case was brought about by a same-sex couple living in La Paz, who had lived together for ten years. They wished to have their union registered, but Serecí, the Civil Registry Service, refused them last year. Both members of the court, said this decision went against the couple’s human rights.

In their ruling, they said: “It is not [our] role to distinguish the worth that one family bond has from another. However, this court considers that it is the obligation of the states to recognize these family ties and protect them according to the Convention.”

The court also elected to follow the 2018 decision from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR), which ruled that all countries under its jurisdiction, which includes Bolivia, need to treat same-sex couples “without discrimination.”

The ruling has already had a positive effect in South America, as it led to Ecuador and Costa Rica legalising same-sex marriage, something that has been constitutionally banned in Bolivia since 2009.

Activists in the country are waiting to see whether Serecí will contest the ruling. However, the ruling could also be a step on the way to marriage equality for same-sex couples. The courts could perhaps elect to offer same-sex unions to couples, but stop short of marriage equality, but they could also decide to pressure the government to follow the ruling from the IACHR.

Although same-sex relations are legal in Bolivia, and there are anti-discrimination measures in place, the country still has constitutional bans on same-sex marriages, as well as same-sex couples adopting children; although an LGBTQ+ person who is single is allowed. The discredited practice of ‘conversion therapy’ is also still legal in the country.

According to 2017 polls, LGBTQ+ rights aren’t something that the general public widely support. Although 64% of people agreed that LGBTQ+ people should have the same rights, over a quarter of people (26%) believed that people in same-sex relationships should be charged with a criminal offence, with under half of people (45%) disagreeing with the statement.

Likewise, a 2017 AmericasBarometer poll found that only 35% of Bolivians were in favour of same-sex marriage.