Brazil's Supreme Court Legalizes Same-Sex Civil Unions

May 9, 2011

A historic development took place in Latin America’s largest country just a few days ago. Casting a groundbreaking decision in favor of equality and civility, Brazil’s Supreme Court legally recognized homosexual civil unions in the nation.

Ten out of the country’s 11 Justices were present for the ruling, which involved two LGBT civil rights cases. The unanimous verdict states that partners in same-sex unions have the same rights as heterosexual unions.

According to Justice Ellen Gracie:

“The recognition made by the court today responds to the rights of a group of people who has long been humiliated, whose rights have been ignored, whose dignity has been offended, whose identity was denied, and whose freedom was overwhelmed.”

The decision has enormous implications for same-sex couples, who will now have access to the same rights that heterosexual couples have long enjoyed, including rights of inheritance, tax deductions, adoptions and immigration.

This decision came at a critical moment for the LGBT community in Brazil. While it has been centuries that members of this community have been discriminated against, brutally attacked and even murdered, just because of their sexual orientation, Federal Congress has never passed a single piece of legislation protecting homosexual’s rights.   The long-awaited ruling is not only a relief for the LGBT community, but it is also an example for other nations that will hopefully follow Brazil’s steps.

While it is well known that the LGBT communities in Brazil and in many other countries have historically been treated as second-class citizens, it is reassuring that things are improving, slowly but surely, in the region. In 2008 Uruguay legalized same-sex civil unions.  In 2009 Mexico City became the first Latin American city to approve same-sex marriage. Also in 2009, Colombia legalized same-sex civil unions.  In 2010 Argentina showed its leadership legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

With the Brazilian court’s decision, both the LGBT community and the entire nation wins.  In a true democracy there is no space for intolerance. All citizens should have the same rights and duties, regardless of their gender, religion, race, sexual orientation or any other form of distinction. Respect to diversity and to minority rights are components of fair society. The Supreme Court showed us that these values are possible to fulfill. Hopefully, more countries in the region will soon follow suit.