Brazil Supreme Court recognizes same-sex civil unions

The Brazilian Supreme Court’s decision to award same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexuals is a landmark step for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in the country, Amnesty International said today.

Ten judges ruled unanimously on Thursday that partners in a same-sex union have the same rights as married heterosexuals.

“This is an historic moment for same-sex couples in Brazil,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Deputy Director for the Americas at Amnesty International.

“We welcome this development and hope that this landmark decision will lead towards full protection of the rights of LGBT people in Brazil.”

The Supreme Court ruling recognises the rights of same-sex couples to pension, inheritance and adoption.

It has come as a result of sustained campaigning by the LGBT movement in Brazil.

“The ruling is an important victory for the gay and lesbian community – and for democracy in Brazil”, Toni Reis, head of Brazil’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans Association (ABGLT), told Amnesty International today.

“Prior to the decision, same-sex unions could only be formalized by means of a business contract, as if the couple were two partners in a firm.”

But Reis says the ruling does not mean the struggle is over.

“The Federal Congress is dragging its feet and has not voted a single bill to promote equal rights for our community. We need to educate people to have more respect for human diversity,” said Reis.

Latin America has seen some improvement in the protection of LGBT rights in recent years.

Argentina, which legalised same-sex marriage in 2010, has gone the furthest of any nation in the region. In 2009, Mexico City became the first Latin American city to approve same-sex marriage.

Uruguay legalised same-sex civil unions nationwide in 2008, followed by Colombia in 2009.

“Hopefully the Brazilian move will influence other Latin American countries,” Guadalupe Marengo said.