Recognition of same-sex unions in South America
|Legal recognition of
† Not yet in effect
Currently 5 of the 12 sovereign countries in South America recognize some type of same-sex unions. Same-sex marriage is currently legal in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. An additional two countries have a form of civil union or registered partnership, namely Colombia and Ecuador.
|Status||Country||Legal since||Country population
(Last Census estimate 2012)
(60.7% of the South America population)
|Other type of partnership
(15.5% of the South America population)
(76.2% of the South America population)
(23.8% of the South America population)
|Other type of partnership
|Falkland Islands||British overseas territory||—|
| South Georgia and the
South Sandwich Islands
|British overseas territory||—|
In 2004, the first case of recognition of same-sex unions in Brazil occurred when a binational Englishman and a Brazilian registered their de facto union. This legal precedent encouraged other couples in the country to do the same.
On 5 May 2011, Brazil's Supreme Federal Court ruled that civil unions for same-sex couples had to be allowed throughout the country. The ruling resulted in stable partnerships for gays and lesbians, having the same financial and social rights enjoyed by those in heterosexual relationships. It also created a legal foundation for same-sex matrimonial rights, as opposite-sex civil unions could be converted into full marriages. In the following two years, the jurisdictions of Alagoas, Bahia, Ceará, Espírito Santo, Federal District, Mato Grosso do Sul, Paraíba, Paraná, Piauí, Rondônia, Santa Catarina, Santa Rita do Sapucaí, São Paulo, and Sergipe legalized same-sex marriage, while Rio de Janeiro allowed local judges to perform same-sex marriages if they agreed to do so. Other states all recognized the marriages, and had registered marriages on a case-by-case basis.
Nevertheless on May 14, 2013, The Justice's National Council of Brazil legalized same-sex marriage in the entire country in a 14-1 vote by issuing a ruling that ordered all civil registers of the country to perform same-sex marriages and convert any existing civil unions into marriages if such a couple desires.
On 7 February 2007, the Constitutional Court of Colombia extended several common-law marriage property and pension rights to same-sex couples, the first rights and recognition that same-sex unions received in the country. Subsequent rulings by the Constitutional Court expanded the rights to which same-sex couples could apply. In October 2007 it extended social security and health insurance rights to them. On 28 January 2009, it modified 20 laws to give them 42 more rights (including nationality, residence permits, testimony when in jury, family-properties laws, etc.). A final ruling, on 13 April 2011, granted them inheritance rights.
On 26 July 2011, the Constitutional Court ruled that it couldn't change the current definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, but also that same-sex couples have the right to form a family and ordered the Colombian Congress to pass legislation addressing this issue within a two years deadline (by June 20, 2013). If such a law is not passed until then, same-sex couples will be automatically able to register their relationship with the same solemnity as heterosexual couples do through marriage. Prior to the Court decision, legislation intending to regulate same-sex relationships had failed six times in Congress.
During the debate over the 2008 Ecuadorian new constitution, LGBT organizations campaigned for the inclusion of same-sex unions in it. Civil unions for same-sex couples were included in Article 68 of the final draft of the constitution. Under the text of the new constitution the only significant difference between same-sex and opposite-sex unions was that adoption by same-sex couples was not allowed. President Rafael Correa openly stated his support for the inclusion of same-sex unions in the text." On 28 September 2008, the constitution was passed in referendum by 69.46% of approval, thus legalizing same-sex civil unions. Article 68 of the constitution reads: "The stable and monogamous union between two persons, free of matrimonial bond, who form a de facto couple, since the time and under the conditions and circumstancies that the law provides, will generate the same rights and obligations that families, build through marriage, are holding. Adoption will only correspond to couples of different sexes."
On 1 January 1, 2008, Uruguay became the first Latin American country to have a national civil unions law. The bill was passed by both chambers of Congress on December 19, 2007 and signed into law by president Tabaré Vázquez on December 27. The bill granted most of the benefits that married couples were afforded, including social security entitlements, inheritance rights and joint ownership of goods and property. On September 2009 a bill which sought to extend adoption rights for same-sex couples was given final approval in Congress. Thus, Uruguay became the first country in South America where same-sex couples could jointly adopt.
In April 2011, Sebastián Sabini, a legislator from one of the parties of the ruling Broad Front, presented a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, which was one of the Broad Front's 2009 election promises. On December 12, the Chamber of Deputies approved the bill by 81 out of the 87 MPs present and sent it to the Senate. The Senate approved the bill with some minor amendments on 2 April 2013, in a 23-8 vote. On 10 April 2013, the Chamber of Deputies gave final approval to the amended version of the bill in a 71-21 vote. On May 3, it was signed by President José Mujica. It took effect on August 5, 2013.
In May 2011, president Piñera stated that he was in favor of an upcoming bill which would legalize a form of civil union; his stated intent was to “protect and safeguard [...] the dignity of those couples, whether of the opposite or even the same sex”. Piñera introduced the bill to Congress in August 2011 allowing registered cohabitation. This would give unmarried partners many of the rights now enjoyed only by married couples, such as inheritance and certain social welfare and health care benefits.
Following the 26 July 2011 ruling by the Constitutional Court, Senator Armando Benedetti introduced a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. However, the two biggest parties made a commitment to kill the bill. It was rejected in a 17-51 vote on 24 April 2013. As the bill's rejection was seen as imminent even before the vote, the country's Notaries Association presented guidelines for notaries and judges to fulfill the Constitutional Court's ruling. The proposal calls the unions of same-sex couples "marital unions", another proposal, presented by Superintendent Jorge Enrique Vélez, calls them "solemn contracts".
Public support for same-sex marriage varies from country to country. Polls have found support to be higher between younger people, women, city inhabitants and people with a higher education level. A series of polls conducted in 2012 by Vanderbilt University throughout Latin America found the following levels of support for same-sex marriage:
- Argentina: A November 2009 poll conducted in the six biggest cities of Argentina found support for same-sex marriage at 63.3%, opposition was at 23.1%
- Brazil: A July 2012 nation-wide poll revealed that 50% of Brazilians were in favor of the Supreme Court decision that expanded civil unions to same-sex couples. Women, younger people and Catholics were more in favor of gay marriage then the rest of the country. Another poll released in March 2013 showed that 47% of the population was in favor of same-sex marriage, while 57% of Brazilians were in favor of same-sex couples adopting children.
- Chile: A July 2011 nation-wide poll found that 52% of Chileans were in favor of granting legal rights to same-sex unions: 18% supported granting civil marriage to gay couples, while 34% preferred giving same-sex couples a "legal union".
- Colombia: A poll conducted between December 2009 and January 2010 in Colombia's capital, Bogota, showed that 63% of the city's population was in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage while 36% was against it.
- Paraguay: A poll conducted by a Christian Newspaper after the approval of same-sex marriage legislation in Argentina showed support for same-marriage at 10% and opposition at 76%.
- Peru: In August 2010, a poll revealed 21.3% of Peruvians approved same-sex marriage, 71.5% were against it. Support in younger people was higher at 31.9%
- Uruguay: A nation-wide poll conducted in November 2011 found support for same-sex marriage at 52%, while only 32% of the population was against it.
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- Data can be obtained in this link.
- Most Argentineans Support Same-Sex Marriage
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- Paraguay: Encuesta revela que solo el 10% de la población está a favor del matrimonio homosexual
- (Spanish) ESTUDIO DE OPINIÓN PÚBLICA A NIVEL PERÚ URBANO - Informe de resultados - (5 al 9 de agosto de 2010)
- Más de la mitad de los uruguayos está a favor de la autorización del matrimonio homosexual