A ruling Thursday by Colombia's highest court sets the stage for Colombia to become the fourth nation in Latin America to extend marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples.

The Constitutional Court said in a 6-3 opinion that public notaries can register the unions of gay couples as marriages. A ruling reflecting the majority opinion is expected in the coming weeks.

“Love triumphed,” David Alonso, an activist, is quoted as saying by the AP. “This is a historical debt that is finally being settled.”

The same court in 2011 ordered lawmakers to approve legislation that would give gay couples the same benefits as married heterosexual couples. The court said that if a law is not approved by June 20, 2013, then “gay couples can go to a notary and with the same solemnity of a heterosexual marriage enter a union similar to one between a heterosexual couple.” After lawmakers failed to act, many public notaries began registering civil unions as marriages; others, however, refused.

The court on Thursday rejected a justice's opinion that said notaries cannot register the unions as marriages. A representative from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a U.S.-based group strongly opposed to LGBT rights, was among the opponents of marriage equality who testified before the court last year.

Only three other nations in Latin America allow gay couples to marry: Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. Gay couples can also marry in many Mexican states.