Same-sex marriage in Brazil

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Same-sex marriage has been legal in Brazil since 16 May 2013, following a National Justice Council decision,[1][2] which orders notaries of every state to perform same-sex marriages.[3][4]

Same-sex unions had already been legally recognized since 2004. Following a ruling of the Supreme Court of Brazil, so-called stable unions (Portuguese: união estável) had been available for same-sex couples since May 2011. These unions were granted most of the rights of marriages, including adoption, welfare benefits, pension, inheritance tax, income tax, social security, health benefits, immigration, joint property ownership, hospital and prison visitation, IVF and surrogacy.[5] This decision paved the way for future legislation on same-sex matrimonial rights. Before the nationwide legislation, Alagoas,[6] Bahia,[6][7] Ceará, Espírito Santo, the Federal District, Mato Grosso do Sul, Paraíba, Paraná,[8][9] Piauí, Rondônia, Santa Catarina, Santa Rita do Sapucaí (MG),[10][11] São Paulo,[12][13] and Sergipe had already allowed same-sex marriages and several unions were converted into full marriages by state judges.[14] In Rio de Janeiro, same-sex couples could also marry but only if local judges agreed with their request.[15]

Nevertheless, on 14 May 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 orders all civil registers of the country to perform same-sex marriages and convert any existing civil union into a marriage, if the couple wish so.[1][2][16][17][18][19] Joaquim Barbosa, president of the Council of Justice and the Supreme Federal Court, said that notaries cannot continue to refuse to "perform a civil wedding or the conversion of a stable civil union into a marriage between people of the same sex".[3] The ruling was published on 15 May and took effect on 16 May 2013.[20][21]

Civil unions[edit]

In 2004, the first case of recognition of same-sex unions in Brazil occurred with a binational Englishman and a Brazilian. This legal precedent encouraged other couples to marry around the country. At the time of the ceremony, in the form of common-law marriage, this was a status that, until then, was only granted to opposite-sex couples. The couple had lived together for fourteen years, in the Brazilian city of Curitiba.[22]

In 2010, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs authorized Brazilian diplomats to request a diplomatic or service passport and stay visa for same-sex partners. The decision, which includes same-sex and opposite-sex partners, was announced internally to embassies and consulates in over 200 countries. According to the Foreign Ministry, the measure must ensure that employees register their same-sex partners to secure their right to stay outside the country. Now, with the grant of diplomatic passports, in practice, it means that it would be easier for the partner to obtain a residence permit.[23]

Also in 2010, the state-owned Infraero (Brazilian Company of Airport Infrastructure) came to recognize the stable union between same-sex couples for purposes of granting benefits. The change came with the signing of the new Collective Work Agreement. To receive the benefit, the union must be registered through the public notary.[24]

On 5 May 2011, Brazil's Supreme Federal Court ruled that civil unions must be allowed throughout the country. The decision was approved by 10-0; one judge abstained because he had previously spoken publicly in favor of same-sex unions when he was attorney general. The ruling resulted in stable partnerships for same-sex couples having the same financial and social rights enjoyed by those in heterosexual relationships. Civil unions of same-sex couples are guaranteed the same 112 rights as marriages of opposite-sex couples.[25] Brazil's High Court ruling came in response to two lawsuits, one filed by the Rio de Janeiro state Government in 2008 and another in 2009 by the Public Ministry, a group of prosecutors that is part of the federal Government but independent from its executive, legislative and judicial branches. To qualify as a stable union, same-sex couples can officially register as a civil union or prove it the same way some heterosexual couples do, by having a bank account together or living at the same address.[26]

On 17 June 2011, a judge from Goiânia, Jeronymo Pedro Villas Boas, annulled the first civil union that happened in the country, between Liorcino Mendes and Odilio Torres, and also ordered all notaries in Goiânia to not issue civil unions anymore.[27][28][29][30] Villas Boas, who is also a church pastor of the Assembleia de Deus, claimed that same-sex unions are unconstitutional.[31] On 21 June, another judge, Beatriz Figueiredo Franco, cancelled Villas Boas decision, making the union valid again.[32] Concerned, Liorcino Mendes and Odilio Torres signed again another civil union in Rio de Janeiro.[33]

On 7 June 2013, the Brazilian Air Force recognized the stable union of a sergeant and his partner after he presented a notarized deed documenting their relationship; the Air Force did not comment on the recognition, and could not confirm if the relationship was the first same-sex union certified by the branch.[34] On 8 August 2013, Judge Elio Siqueira of the 5th region TRF ruled on appeal that the Brazilian Army must recognize the civil union (performed in January 2012 in Pernambuco) of a service member and his same-sex partner, and must also accord a military spousal pension to the partner. It marked the first time that a state-recognized same-sex union was recognized by the Army.[35][36]

Same-sex marriage[edit]

Recognition of same-sex unions in South America
  Other type of partnership
  Constitution limits marriage to opposite-sex couples
  Same-sex sexual activity illegal

Marriage law is governed by federal rather than state law and involves issuing of a marriage certificate by a notary. In May 2011, the Supreme Federal Court decided that the present marriage law already did allow for both opposite and same-sex marriages. Based on this decision, many states amended its guidances for issuing marriage certificates to implement the Supreme Court decision and allow same-sex marriage through a notary. In other states notaries who preside over marriage licenses and perform marriages are required by judicial order to provide such services to same-sex couples.[3]

National Justice Council ruling[edit]

On 14 May 2013, The Justice's National Council of Brazil legalized same-sex marriage in the entire country in a 14–1 vote, via a ruling that orders all civil registers of the country to perform same-sex marriages and to convert any existing civil unions into marriages if the couple so desires.[1][2][16][17][18][19] Joaquim Barbosa, president of the Council of Justice and the Supreme Federal Court, said in the decision that notaries cannot continue to refuse to "perform a civil wedding or the conversion of a stable civil union into a marriage between persons of the same sex."[3][4][37]

On 21 May 2013, the Social Christian Party (PSC) lodged an appeal of the National Council's decision in the Supreme Federal Court of Brazil. The party alleged that the Council had committed an abuse of power and that legalising same-sex marriage was a matter exclusively for the legislature to decide.[38] The appeal did not affect the Council's original decision in favour of same-sex marriage. On 30 May 2013, the Supreme Federal Court rejected the appeal on technical grounds, stating that the PSC had used the wrong form of appeal. The Court held that the National Council's decision could only be challenged through a "direct action for unconstitutionality" (ação direta de inconstitucionalidade) rather than an action for injunction (mandado de segurança).[39][40] On 6 June 2013, the PSC re-lodged the appeal.[41][42] On 28 August 2013, the Procuradoria Geral da República (Attorney General) forwarded to the Supreme Court an opinion in favor of same-sex marriage in Brazil.[43] Given the National Council ruling was issued by the council's president, who was also the Chief Justice of the Supreme Federal Court, it is unlikely the latter court would ever overturn the council's ruling.

Proposals in the National Congress[edit]

A Brazilian legislative commission for human rights recommended in October 2013 a measure that would ensure that religious bodies would not be required to solemnize same-sex marriages. The proposal would allow a religious body to decline to officiate at marriages of those "who violate its values, doctrines, and beliefs". The proposal was to have been brought forward in Brazil's Legislature if it was approved by a constitutional committee, though no such change was made prior to the 2014 elections.[44]

In March 2017, the Constitution and Justice Commission of the Brazilian Senate preliminary approved a bill[45] modifying the national Civil Code to recognize the 'stable union' between two persons of the same sex and enabling the conversion of that union into marriage. The proposal replaces the definition of family entity, which goes from "stable union between man and woman" to "stable union between two people", and inserts the provision saying that marriage can be performed between two people, thus replacing the article restricting it to opposite-sex couples.[46] On 3 May, the commission gave its final approval to the bill.[47][48][49] The bill would need to be approved by the full Senate and Chamber of Deputies before becoming law.

Timeline prior to 2013 ruling[edit]

Same-sex marriage in Brazil prior to May 2013
  Same-sex marriage readily registered
  Same-sex marriage only practiced upon court ruling

Individual cases[edit]

In several individual cases, marriage licenses were granted, often through the decision of a judge. Notable cases include:

  • On 27 June 2011, a Brazilian judge in the state of São Paulo converted a civil union into a same-sex marriage.[50] The couple wed the following day.
  • On 28 June 2011, another stable union between a same-sex couple was converted into a marriage. Judge Jennifer Antunes de Souza, from the 4th Family Court of Brasília, upheld the order.[51]
  • On 31 May 2012, a civil partnership contracted by two men in England was converted into a marriage when the couple moved to Brazil.[52] The Brazilian Embassy ruled in favour due to a 2003 decision issued by a judge.
  • On 29 May 2012, four of the six notaries of Porto Alegre, capital of Rio Grande do Sul, agreed to convert civil unions into marriages.[53]
  • On 28 June 2012, in the state of Pará, 28 same-sex couples got married in a ceremony, that took place in Belém.[54]


The 2011 Supreme Court decision gave rise to several states explicitly altering their procedures enabling same-sex couples to marry in a manner that is bureaucratically identical to opposite-sex couples. Those states are listed below:

  • On 7 December 2011, the Corregedoria Geral da Justiça of Alagoas ordered the Civil Registry of Alagoas to issue marriage licences to same-sex couples, being the first state to enable same-sex marriages to be recognized in the same way as other marriages.[55][56]
  • On 5 July 2012, Corregedoria Geral da Justiça of Sergipe issued "Provimento nº 06/2012" regulating same-sex marriage throughout the state.[57]
  • On 9 July 2012, Santa Rita do Sapucaí became the only city in the country (and in the world) to allow same-sex marriages by itself, after the decision of a judge of Minas Gerais (the state of Santa Rita do Sapucaí).[58]
  • On 15 August 2012, the Corregedoria Geral da Justiça of the state of Espírito Santo issued a circular letter stating that the Civil Registry of the state should address same-sex marriages the same way as opposite-sex marriages, making it the third Brazilian state to legalize same-sex marriage.[59]
  • On 26 November 2012, the Corregedoria Geral da Justiça of Bahia adapted the text of the directive regulating marriages to include same-sex marriages in a manner equal to other couples.[7][60][61]
  • On 1 December 2012, the Court of Public Registers of the Federal District, ruled that, effective immediately, same-sex marriage licenses should be granted without a judge's intervention.[62]
  • On 15 December 2012, the Corregedoria Geral da Justiça of Piauí updated its marriage provisions in a similar manner.[63][64]
  • On 18 December 2012, the Corregedoria Geral da Justiça of São Paulo did the same, with an entry into effect 60 days later (i.e. 16 February 2013).[6][65]
  • On 7 March 2013, Ceará's state General Attorney, Francisco Sales Neto, ruled in "Decision 02/2013" that all notaries statewide are obligated to accept same-sex marriages. The decision took effect on 15 March 2013.[66][67]
  • On 26 March 2013, the Corregedoria Geral da Justiça of Paraná ruled that same-sex marriages and conversion of stable unions to marriages should be possible using the normal marriage procedures.[8][9][68][69]
  • On 2 April 2013, the Corregedoria Geral da Justiça of Mato Grosso do Sul authorized marriages between same-sex couples in the state.[9][70][71]
  • On 17 April 2013, the Corregedoria Geral da Justiça of Rio de Janeiro, Judge Valmir de Oliveira Silva, published a legal ruling authorizing same-sex marriages in the state if local judges agree.[15] According to the ruling, a couple's request must be registered by civil registry officers, who have to give 15 days for the district to decide if they agree. If they don't agree, the marriage cannot proceed.[72]
  • On 26 April 2013, the Corregedoria Geral da Justiça of the state of Rondônia published in the Diário da Justiça Eletrônico, "Provision 008/2013-CG" which provides for the direct qualification for marriages between same-sex couples and conversion of stable unions to marriages in the civil registration records of the state of Rondônia.[73][74][75]
  • On 29 April 2013, the Corregedoria Geral da Justiça of the state of Santa Catarina authorized same-sex marriages in a manner equal to opposite sex couples if both applicants are resident of the state.[76]
  • On 29 April 2013 the Corregedoria Geral da Justiça of the state of Paraíba, Judge Murilo Márcio da Cunha Ramos, authorized the release of "Provision (06/2013)" which enables same-sex marriages.[77][78][79]

Marriage statistics[edit]

From May to December 2013, approximately 3,800 same-sex marriages were celebrated in the country. Of these marriages, 52% were between women and 48% were between men.[80]

In 2014, 4,854 same-sex couples married in Brazil. 60,7% of these marriages were performed in the Southeast Region, 15,4% in the South Region, 13,6% in the Northeast Region, 6,9% in the Central-West Region and 3,4% in the North Region.[81] 2,050 same-sex marriages were performed in São Paulo, 501 in Rio de Janeiro, 342 in Santa Catarina, 331 in Minas Gerais, 212 in Rio Grande do Sul, 194 in Paraná, 177 in Pernambuco, 162 in Ceará, 134 in Bahia, 130 in Goiás, 129 in the Federal District, 70 in Maranhão, 63 in Espírito Santo, 58 in Pará, 51 in Mato Grosso do Sul, 47 in Rio Grande do Norte, 45 in Amazonas, 31 in Paraíba, 24 in Amapá, 23 in Mato Grosso, 18 in Alagoas, 18 in Rondônia, 14 in Piauí, 11 in Tocantins, 8 in Sergipe, 6 in Acre and 5 in Roraima.[82]

In 2015, 5,614 same-sex marriages were performed in Brazil, representing a 15.7% increase from 2014. Same-sex marriages, however, accounted for only 0.5% of all marriages celebrated that year.[83]

5,354 same-sex couples got married in Brazil in 2016. Of these, 2,943 were female couples, while 2,411 were male couples. Same-sex marriages accounted for 0.49% of the 1,095,535 marriages performed that year in the whole country.[84]

Public opinion[edit]

According to Pew Research Center survey, conducted between 4 November 2013 and 14 February 2014, 45% of Brazilians supported same-sex marriage, 48% were opposed.[85][86]

According to Ibope, support for same-sex couples having the same rights as different-sex couples in Brazil had risen to 59%. As of 2017, support was higher among women, young people, people with higher educational levels and Brazilians living in the South region of the country.[87]

See also[edit]


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