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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 17, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 20x
Brazil: Marriage maybe? - Court ruling mandates equality, but law must now catch up
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Brazil: Marriage maybe? - Court ruling mandates equality, but law must now catch up

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Is same-sex marriage legal in Brazil? The short answer is 'Yes,' but the long answer is 'It's complicated.'

Brazil's National Council of Justice, the body that oversees the country's judicial system, issued a ruling on May 14 that same-sex couples in all states must be issued marriage licenses. Under Brazilian law, licenses are issued and civil marriages are performed by notary offices.

'This is the equivalent of authorizing homosexual marriage in Brazil,' Raquel Pereira de Castro Ara├║jo, head of the human rights committee of the Brazilian bar association, told Agence France Presse.

The vote on the council was 14-1 in favor of marriage licenses for all couples. Brazil's Chief Justice Joaquim Barbosa, who chairs the council, wrote the body's decision.

NO BASIS FOR BIAS
Referring to a 2011 case in which Brazil's Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriages were legal, Barbosa wrote that the high court 'affirmed that the expression of homosexuality and homosexual affection cannot serve as a basis for discriminatory treatment, which has no support in the Constitution.'

Although the court found same-sex marriage legal, it left the necessary enabling legislation up to Brazil's Congress. While a marriage bill is pending, the federal legislature has taken no action so far, leaving implementation of the court ruling to Brazil's states.

Twelve states and the Federal District, which includes the capital city of Brasilia, have decided to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. An additional state, Rio de Janeiro, allows judges the option to perform same-sex marriages if they choose to do so. In other states, same-sex couples must ask for a court order to obtain a marriage license.

'A MAJOR STEP'
The National Council of Justice decision now clears the way for a uniform nationwide marriage policy.

'It is a major step that will ensure equality among heterosexual and homosexual couples,' Carlos Magno Fonseca, president of the Brazilian Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Association, told AFP.

Same-sex civil unions have been recognized in Brazilian law since 2004. In 2012, 1,277 same-sex couples registered civil unions.

Brazil also recognizes 'cohabitations,' or unregistered unions - both same-sex and opposite-sex - which provide many of the rights of marriage, including tax, social security, and health care benefits; joint property ownership; and the right to adopt children.

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