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Brazil takes first steps to legalizing gay marriage

Brazilian lawmakers urged to follow state courts which already approve same-sex civil unions
Gay marriage legislation passes senate committee in Brazil.

Brazil’s politicians have made a small step to catching up with their judges and legalizing same-sex marriage.

A proposal to allow same-sex civil unions has been before Brazil’s Congress for 16 years.

But yesterday (24 May) the human rights committee in Brazil’s Senate approved a change in the law to say a civil union is between two people, without saying they have to be opposite genders.

However even that stops short of full gay marriage. And the bill still has to pass through other senate committees before it can get to a full vote and become law.

Meanwhile the courts are well ahead.

Brazilian cohabitation laws recognize unregistered partnerships and grants them similar rights to marriage including adoption access and welfare benefits like pensions, inheritance tax, income tax, social security, health benefits, immigration, joint property ownership, hospital and prison visitation, IVF and surrogacy.

Then in 2011, Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples are legally entitled to those unregistered union rights.

Since then, some gay and lesbian couples have been able to convert their civil union into marriage with the approval of a state judge – something which has been decided by state judges.

Arguing for the new bill, its sponsor Senator Marta Suplicy, said politicians need to legislate for what courts are already allowing.

However Luiz Mott PhD, who is founder of the oldest LGBT group in Latin America, Grupo Gay de Bahia, welcomed the news but told Gay Star News that he is realistic about the chances for the bill.

He said: ‘In my opinion, this approval of gay marriage by senate committee is important, but does not necessarily mean this resolution will be approved by the Brazilian National Congress.

‘Unfortunately, more and more congressmen and senators are evangelical, from the Pentecostal branch, and they boycott any law that guarantees equal rights for homosexuals.

‘But we have had a recent victory by the decision of the Federal Supreme Court that recognized gay union as ‘uniao estavel’ [common-law marriage], and since then we have had the possibility of having LGBT unions legalized in Brazil.’

For Mott, the main issues now are elsewhere with the country run by President Dilma Vana Rousseff, who is said is the most homophobic they have had, earning her the name ‘Dilmofóbica’.

Mott told us: ‘Our main struggle right now is to ensure that homophobia is treated equally with the crime of racism, which is a heinous crime in Brazil, while homophobia is still not recognized by the Brazilian jurist courts.

‘Brazil remains the world champion of LGBT murders with 266 in 2011 and more than 130 in the first five months of 2012 – that’s a "homocidio" every 24 hours.’

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