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International Law

Brazil Supreme Court OKs Same-Sex Unions

Posted May 6, 2011 12:10 PM CDT
By Stephanie Francis Ward

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Same-sex unions must be recognized, Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled Thursday, finding that gay couples deserve the same rights as heterosexual couples in areas like alimony, benefits and inheritances.

According to the Associated Press, the ruling does not legalize same-sex marriage.

"This is a historic moment for all Brazilians, not just homosexuals. This judgment will change everything for us in society—and for the better," Marcelo Cerqueira with the gay rights group Grupo Gay da Bahia, told the Associated Press. "Gays, lesbians and transsexuals will be recognized as being more human. We'll be more accepted by having our rights honored."

The Brazilian attorney general’s office asked the high court to recognize civil unions two years ago, after legislators stalled legislation about same-sex couples for more than a decade. Brazil’s constitution describes a “family entity” as “a stable union between a man and a woman.”

Brazil is a largely Catholic country, and a lawyer for the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops argued that the constitution only recognizes a legal partnership between a man and a woman. In response, the country’s attorney general argued that the clause is a definition, not a limitation, and it does not state that a stable union can “only” be between a man and a woman.

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