Friday, May 6, 2011

Brazil Supreme Court awards gay couples new rights

This article appeared this morning on the BBC website
6 May 2011                                                              
Brazil's Supreme Court has voted overwhelmingly in favor of allowing same-sex couples the same legal rights as married heterosexuals.
The decision was approved by 10-0 with one abstention.
The ruling will give gay couples in "Stable Unions" the same financial and social rights enjoyed by those in heterosexual relationships.
The ruling makes Brazil one of very few South American nations, after Argentina and Uruguay, to allow gay unions with benefits similar to those afforded a heterosexual married couple.
"The freedom to pursue one's own sexuality is part of an individual's freedom of expression," said Justice Carlos Ayres Britto, the author of the ruling.
Gay activists welcomed the decision, saying it marked an "historic day" for the country.
"The degree of civilization of a country can be measured by the way people in a nation treat their homosexual community," Claudio Nascimento, head of Rio de Janeiro state's Gay, Lesbian and Transsexuals Committee said, according to O Globo.
From now on same sex couples will be able to register their civil partnerships with solicitors and public bodies, giving them proper inheritance and pension rights.

However, the landmark ruling stops short of recognizing gay marriage, which could involve public or religious ceremonies.
Brazil's Roman Catholic Church had argued against the decision to allow civil unions, saying the only union referred to within Brazil's constitution was that between a man and a woman.
But the country's recently elected President Dilma Roussef has made the issue one of her big social policy reforms.
Now if only our friends back in the States could see such progress.  I fear getting relief from the US Supreme Court is a much more distant reality, however. Sigh.

Additional info here.


Danielle said...

What's their definition of a "public ceremony"? If you hold a ceremony and reception at one of the many event halls in Brazil, that's legal, I'm sure. Sign your papers at the cartorio, and if you're not religious, it wouldn't be that different, right?

Of course I agree that using the word "marriage" is important, but I think it'll be a while before Brazil or the US gets their respective religious rights to agree to that.

So if the court decides to give gay people the same rights and to call it something else, the religious rights seem even dumber than we thought. (Are the rights the same, except for the religious ceremony?)Alexandre and I got one of the civil union things here, and the only difference we've found so far is that divorce will be cheaper without the M word!

Jim said...

One reality here in Brazil that really separates it and this marriage/civil unions thing from the States is that here in Brazil A LOT of people utilize the civil union ("Stable Union") option. Much, much more than common law marriages in the States. The absense of the word marriage does not have the same sting here.

This ruling indeed grants ALL the rights, priveleges and obligations to stable unionized folk as married folk.

This will make buying a house SO MUCH EASIER for gay couples, they can now combine their incomes for bank loan purposes.

It's really, really a good thing.

SN said...

First off- congrats! This is such a huge movement that I hope other countries follow. I love the comment "The freedom to pursue one's own sexuality is part of an individual's freedom of expression". I think this should be used for the argument in the US.

I have a personal question out of curiosity though. What does this mean for the two of you? I know that you got married once before in the states but did that get revoked? Are you going to file for civil union here? How exciting if you get to plan for a wedding/civil union!


Jim said...

Thanks Sara. They also made the argument that you cannot lose your inalienable rights just because you enter into a relationship. That is, if you have rights as an individual, they do not disappear when you enter into a couple. Equality under the law supersedes this change in relationship status. I like that one.
For Luiz and me it basically means end-of-life worries are removed. Hospital care decisions can be made, property is transferred after death without lengthy probate and tax concerns, pension benefits are transferable, etc. Our resources and property are now owned jointly under the law, without the need for additional legal contracts. It also means – it is worth mentioning – that we are now each responsible for the debts incurred by the other.
We are not seeking to adopt a child, but this change would facilitate such a decision. We are not seeking to buy a house, but as mentioned above, this change would make that MUCH more doable.
After all of our on again – off again marriage and domestic partnership shenanigans I don’t think we will plan another ceremony. Our legal marriage in SF was later revoked by the CA Supreme Court and our Domestic Partnership certifications by both the City of SF and the State of CA were used to prove our “Stable Union” to enable Luiz to sponsor me for a permanent resident visa here in Brazil.
But now we will go to the cartorio and certify our stable union within Brazil to then be afforded the rights and protections (and obligations) newly afforded us.
It is a good day.

The Big Redhead said...

Greetings from Thailand! And congratulations on the ruling. I just had to track you down (again) and say Felicitaciones! (sp?) Whatever happens in the US (and, speaking as a near permanent expat, I'm rather disillusioned) I'm just focusing on the good news: Brazil, the largest Roman Catholic country in the world, says yes. Time to revel! Hope you are both well. Now, is there a wedding to plan? Have you registered anywhere? ;) Best,...Steven.

Jim said...

Thanks Steven -- c'mon down! Brazil is quite welcoming!

No wedding registry... we have all the toasters we need. lol

Jim said...

But we do both look SMASHING in tuxes. That could be an incentive...

Ray and Gil said...


Congrats to you guys!
It is such a relief!
I am very proud of the Brazilian Supreme Court.
Thanks for sharing the information and the links.
Gil and I will definitely have a wedding party when we get down to Brazil and you and Luiz are most certainly already invite ;)


Jana @ Paper plains said...

Wonderful wonderful news!!!