Recognition of same-sex unions in South America

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Recognition of same-sex unions in South America
  Same-sex marriage
  Other type of partnership
  Unrecognized or unknown
  Same-sex marriage banned
  Same-sex sexual activity illegal

Legal status of
same-sex relationships
  1. Can be registered also in Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten
  2. Licensed in some counties in Kansas but same-sex marriage is not recognized by the state
  3. Only licensed in St. Louis City, St. Louis County, & Jackson County
  4. When performed in Mexican states that have legalized same-sex marriage
  5. Most counties in Alabama issued same-sex marriage licenses for several weeks after a federal court found that state's ban unconstitutional, but all stopped by 4 March 2015 following an order by the state supreme court
  6. Only if married in Michigan when same-sex marriage was legal

*Not yet in effect

LGBT portal

Debate has occurred throughout South America over proposals to legalize same-sex marriage as well as civil unions.

Currently 6 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 three countries have a form of civil union or registered partnership, namely Chile, Colombia and Ecuador.

Sex between women is legal in the entire region, while sex between men is illegal only in Guyana,[1] not to be confused with French Guiana.

Current situation[edit]

National level[edit]

Status Country Legal since Country population
(Last Census estimate 2012)
(3 countries)
Argentina Argentina 2010 42,192,500
Brazil Brazil 2013 201,032,714
Uruguay Uruguay 2013 3,368,595
Subtotal 246,593,809
(60.7% of the South American population)
Other type of partnership
(3 countries)
Chile Chile 2015 16,634,603
Colombia Colombia 2007 47,121,089
Ecuador Ecuador 2009 15,761,731
Subtotal 79,517,423
(19.6% of the South American population)
Total 326,111,232
(80.3% of the South American population)
No recognition
(6 countries)
Bolivia Bolivia 10,027,254
Guyana Guyana 784,894
Paraguay Paraguay 6,672,633
Peru Peru 30,475,144
Suriname Suriname 543,000
Venezuela Venezuela 31,648,930
Total 80,151,855
(19.7% of the South American population)

Sub-national level[edit]

Status State/Territory Country Legal since
(1 jurisdiction)
French Guiana France France 2013
Other type of partnership
(1 jurisdiction)
Mérida Venezuela Venezuela 2010
No recognition
(1 jurisdiction)
Falkland Islands Falkland Islands United Kingdom 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.[2]

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.[3] 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,[4] 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.[5] 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.[6][7]


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.[8][9] 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 same-sex couples.[10] 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.).[11][12] A final ruling, on 13 April 2011, granted them inheritance rights.[13]

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.[14][15] In April of 2013, the Colombia Senate rejected a same sex marriage bill.[16]


During the debate over the 2008 Ecuadorian new constitution, LGBT organizations campaigned for the inclusion of same-sex unions in it.[17][18] Civil unions for same-sex couples were included in Article 68 of the final draft of the constitution.[19] 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.[20] President Rafael Correa openly stated his support for the inclusion of same-sex unions in the text."[21][22] On 28 September 2008, the constitution was passed in referendum by 69.46% of approval, thus legalizing same-sex civil unions.[23] 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."[20]


On 1 January 1, 2008, Uruguay became the first Latin American country to have a national civil unions law.[24] The bill was passed by both chambers of Congress on December 19, 2007[25] and signed into law by president Tabaré Vázquez on December 27.[26] 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.[27] 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.[28]

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,[29] which was one of the Broad Front's 2009 election promises.[30] On December 12, the Chamber of Deputies approved the bill by 81 out of the 87 MPs present and sent it to the Senate.[31] The Senate approved the bill with some minor amendments on 2 April 2013, in a 23-8 vote.[32][33] 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.[34][35]

Future legislation[edit]


On 7 January 2014, the Senate voted 28–6 in favor of a civil union bill called Acuerdo de Vida en Pareja, pushed by then-President Piñera.[36] The bill was however not voted on by the Chamber of Deputies before the end of the parliamentary session in March 2014, despite it being a priority issue for Piñera. When Bachelet took office in March 2014, she made passing Piñera's civil union bill a priority issue as well.[37] Legalising same-sex marriage remains a longer-term goal of Bachelet's administration, which she promised to push during her election campaign.[38] On 5 August 2014, a Senate committee approved the civil unions bill.[39] On 7 October 2014, the bill moved out of the Senate and was scheduled for a final vote in the Chamber Of Deputies.[40] On 20 January 2015, the Chamber approved the bill on a vote of 86 to 23 with 2 abstentions. On 27 January, the Senate rejected all the Chamber's amendments, so the bill was headed to the joint committee of both houses.[41] The committee reached the agreement in regard to the text of the bill and changed its name to Civil union agreement (Acuerdo de Unión Civil) the same day. The bill was passed in both houses on 28 January 2015.[42][43] The law recognises same-sex marriages performed abroad as civil unions and views couples and their children as a family. In March 2015, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs began recognising all unions performed abroad for residency matters. Several lawmakers asked the Chilean Constitutional Court to verify the bill's constitutionality, which was upheld by the court in a ruling released on 6 April 2015.[44] The bill was signed by President Bachelet on 13 April 2015 and will take effect six months after publication in the official journal.[45][46]

On 10 December 2014, a group of senators from various parties joined LGBT rights group MOVILH in presenting a bill to allow same-sex marriage and adoption to Congress.[47] On 17 February 2015, lawyers representing the Government and the LGBT rights group MOVILH met to discuss an amicable solution to the same-sex marriage lawsuit before the Inter-American Commission Of Human Rights. The Government announced that they would drop their opposition to same-sex marriage. A formal agreement will be signed in April and the case will still continue according to MOVILH's lawyer who stated that the lawsuit will live on until Chile enacts the law.[48]


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.[49] 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",[50] another proposal, presented by Superintendent Jorge Enrique Vélez, calls them "solemn contracts".[51]

Public opinion[edit]

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.[52] A series of polls conducted in 2012 by Vanderbilt University throughout Latin America found the following levels of support for same-sex marriage:[53]

Other polls[edit]

  • 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%[54]
  • 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.[55] 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.[56]
  • 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".[57]
  • 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.[58]
  • 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%.[59]
  • 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%[60]
  • 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.[61]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ottosson, Daniel (May 2012). "State-sponsored Homophobia: A world survey of laws prohibiting same sex activity between consenting adults" (PDF). International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA). Retrieved 2013-05-07. 
  2. ^ "Primeiro casal gay a registrar união no país completa 20 anos". Journal Comunicacao (in Portuguese). 18 April 2010. Retrieved 16 January 2013. 
  3. ^ "Casais gays conquistam 112 direitos com decisão do STF" (in Portuguese). 6 May 2011. Retrieved 16 January 2013. 
  4. ^ "Brazil’s most populous state to allow same-sex marriage". Washington Blade. 21 December 2012. 
  5. ^ "Rio de Janeiro state legalizes gay marriage". 17 April 2013. Retrieved 22 April 2013.  According to the ruling (25/2013), a couples' request should be registered by civil registry officers, who have to give 15 days for the district to decide if they agree. If they do not agree, the marriage could not proceed.
  6. ^ Decisão do CNJ obriga cartórios a fazer casamento homossexual
  7. ^ Romero, Simon (May 14, 2013). "Brazilian Court Council Removes a Barrier to Same-Sex Marriage". New York Times. Retrieved May 15, 2013. 
  8. ^ (Spanish) EL TIEMPO - Corte da primer derecho a parejas gays
  9. ^ "Rights for Colombia gay couples". BBC News. 2007-02-08. Retrieved 2007-07-30. 
  10. ^ Colombian court rules in favour of equal rights for gay couples, Pink News, 6 October 2007
  11. ^ Decision C-029 of 2009
  12. ^ (Spanish) 42 disposiciones modificó la Corte Constitucional para amparar derechos de las parejas gay,El Tiempo, 2009-01-29. Retrieved on July 02, 2009
  13. ^ (Spanish) El Tiempo. Corte explica por qué matrimonio homosexual es decisión del Congreso. Retrieved 15 May 2013.
  14. ^ DECISION C-577/11 The homosexuals have the right to form a family
  15. ^ "Colombian court says Congress must decide on gay marriage". CNN. 2011-07-27. 
  16. ^ Colombia president back same sex marriage
  17. ^ (Spanish) El Universo. “Los gays nos manejamos como familia”. Retrieved 15 May 2013.
  18. ^ (Spanish) El Universo. Uniones homosexuales en el país son un hecho aun sin ley. Retrieved 15 May 2013.
  19. ^ (Spanish) Nueva Constitución reconoce unión gay y lésbica Retrieved 15 May 2013.
  21. ^ Materville Studios – Host of Windy City Times. "Ecuadorean president supports same-sex partnerships". Retrieved 18 December 2011. 
  22. ^ (Spanish) Presidente Correa: Ecuador es un estado laico que debe respetar todas las creencias. Retrieved 15 May 2013.
  23. ^ "Ecuador's new constitution goes into effect". International Herald Tribune. 29 March 2009. Retrieved 18 December 2011. 
  24. ^ (Spanish) Ley Nş 18.246 UNIÓN CONCUBINARIA
  25. ^ Uruguay approves gay civil unions. BBC News (December 19, 2007). Retrieved on December 4, 2011.
  26. ^ Writer, Staff. (December 28, 2007) Uruguay's President grants legal rights for gay couples. Retrieved on December 4, 2011.
  27. ^ (Spanish) Preguntas frecuentes sobre Unión Concubinaria
  28. ^ Uruguay allows same-sex adoption. BBC News (September 9, 2009). Retrieved on December 4, 2011.
  29. ^ (Spanish) Uruguay: el Frente Amplio impulsa el matrimonio igualitario
  30. ^ (Spanish) Ahora Uruguay va por el matrimonio gay
  31. ^ (Spanish) Uruguay aprueba el matrimonio entre personas del mismo sexo
  32. ^ Uruguay's senate approves same-sex marriage bill
  33. ^ (Spanish) Senado aprobó ley de matrimonio igualitario: 23 a favor, 8 en contra
  35. ^ (Spanish) Desde el 1° de agosto se podrán celebrar matrimonios gay. Retrieved 6 May 2013.
  36. ^ "Chile civil unions bill advances". Washington Blade. 2014-01-07. 
  37. ^ "Government announces priority for same-sex civil unions and tax reform". Santiago Times. March 17, 2014. 
  38. ^ "Ministro Gómez abre discusión sobre matrimonio homosexual". 24horas. 2014-03-20. Retrieved 2014-03-30. 
  39. ^ "Chilean Senate committee approves civil unions bill". Washington Blade. 5 August 2014. 
  40. ^ [1]
  41. ^ (Spanish) Pacto de Unión Civil: Senado rechaza texto aprobado por la Cámara para zanjar disensos en comisión mixta
  42. ^ Esposito, Anthony. "Socially-conservative Chile approves civil unions". Reuters. Retrieved 28 January 2015. 
  43. ^ (Spanish) Comisión mixta concluye revisión de proyecto de Unión Civil: Mañana se vota en la Cámara y el Senado
  44. ^ "Chilean court upholds constitutionality of civil unions bill". The Washington Blade. 6 April 2015. 
  45. ^ Chilean president signs civil unions bill
  46. ^ Chilean president signs same-sex civil union law
  47. ^ "El proyecto de ley de matrimonio igualitario llega al Parlamento de Chile". Cáscara Amarga. 2014-12-11. Retrieved 2014-12-11. 
  48. ^ Chilean government to end opposition to same-sex marriage (Washington Blade - February 18 2015)
  49. ^ Colombia lawmakers reject controversial gay marriage bill
  50. ^ (Spanish) Plantean llamar 'vínculo marital' a la unión de parejas homosexuales. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  51. ^ (Spanish) El Espectador. Notarios no podrán argumentar objeción de conciencia en uniones homosexuales. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  52. ^ Vanderbildt University. Support for Same‐Sex Marriage in Latin America. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
  53. ^ Data can be obtained in this link.
  54. ^ Most Argentineans Support Same-Sex Marriage
  55. ^ (Portuguese) Evolução: 50% da população brasileira aprova o casamento gay, diz pesquisa
  56. ^ Quase 60% dos brasileiros são a favor de adoção de crianças por gays
  57. ^ "Estudio Nacional de Opinión Pública, Junio-Julio 2011. Tema especial: Educación". Retrieved 2011-10-03. 
  58. ^ (Spanish) Los habitantes de Bogotá aprueban el matrimonio homosexual, según encuesta
  59. ^ Paraguay: Encuesta revela que solo el 10% de la población está a favor del matrimonio homosexual
  60. ^ (Spanish) ESTUDIO DE OPINIÓN PÚBLICA A NIVEL PERÚ URBANO - Informe de resultados - (5 al 9 de agosto de 2010)
  61. ^ Más de la mitad de los uruguayos está a favor de la autorización del matrimonio homosexual