Recognition of same-sex unions in Venezuela

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Legal status of same-sex unions
  1. Same-sex marriage legal throughout Danish Realm though law in Faroe Islands not yet in effect
  2. Marriages performed in some municipalities and recognized by the state
  3. For some purposes only
  4. When performed in Mexican states that have legalized same-sex marriage
  5. When performed in the Netherlands proper
  6. Registration schemes opened in all jurisdictions except Hualien County, Keeling City, Penghu County, Taitung County, and Yunlin County

* Not yet in effect

LGBT portal

Venezuela does not recognize same-sex unions.[1][2][3] In April 2016, the Supreme Court announced it will hear a case seeking to declare Article 44 of the Civil Code unconstitutional for outlawing same-sex marriage.[4] Proposals allowing for either civil unions or marriage for same-sex couples are currently being debated in Parliament. Additionally, in 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that the Venezuelan Constitution does not prohibit same-sex marriage.


The Constitution of Venezuela enacted in 1999 defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, thus constitutionally banning same-sex marriage.[5] However in February 2008, the Supreme Tribunal of Justice ruled in favor of Unión Afirmativa (Affirmative Union), a group advocating for same-sex marriage, who had asked for clarity on Article 21 (the article about equality before the law) and 77 (the article about marriage).[6] They argued that the sentence is unclear and does not determine the possibility of recognition of economic and social rights for same-sex couples. Furthermore they asked whether same-sex couples have the rights mentioned above and what is the scope of these rights: property in case of a dissolution of the couple by separation or death, the legal obligations of mutual assistance, the right to adoption, the benefits of social security as a couple, protection against domestic violence, the possibility of acquiring the nationality of the partner, among others. The ruling indicated that the National Assembly "could" (but was not bound to) legislate in order to protect such rights for same-sex partners.[7] Subsequently Article 77 was amended and marriage defined as the following:[8]

Marriage, which is based on free consent and absolute equality of rights and obligations of the spouses, is protected.

A stable de facto union that has all the rights of marriage is however only available to a man and a woman as currently defined in Venezuela's Constitution:[8]

A stable de facto union between a man and a woman which meets the requirements established by law shall have the same effects as marriage.

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

Legal challenges[edit]

In January 2015, a lawsuit for the right to marry was filed before the country's Supreme Court.[9][10] On 28 April 2016, the Supreme Court announced it would hear the case. The lawsuit seeks to declare Article 44 of the Civil Code unconstitutional because it states that marriage is only legally valid between a man and a woman in Venezuela.[10][11][4][12] As of January 2017, LGBT activists in Venezuela are collecting signatures in support of same-sex marriage in various cities throughout the country.[13]

On 15 August 2016, a Venezuelan citizen and his US citizen husband, Carlos J. Holder Wendell and Patrick A. Holder Wendell, filed a lawsuit in the US District Court of Massachusetts against the Venezuelan Government for their failure to register and recognize their legal marriage after multiple requests and petitions to the Venezuelan Consulate in Boston and Consul General Rosalba Gil. Their lawsuit alleges that the Venezuelan Government's refusal to register and recognize their marriage violates the Venezuelan Constitution and is in violation of the Venezuelan Civil Code. It also alleges that the actions of the Government are in violation of the Hague Convention on Consular Relations, a treaty to which both the US and Venezuela are a party to.[14][15]

Legislative action[edit]

Civil unions[edit]

On 20 March 2009, National Assembly member Romelia Matute announced that the Assembly would legalize same-sex unions and recognize them as asociaciones de convivencia (association by cohabitation).[16] However, later in the same month, Marelys Pérez—chairperson of the Family, Women and Youth Commission—announced that no such action would be taking place; adding that although the Commission would debate the same-sex partnership initiative, it would be excluded from the current bill and likely wait for its inclusion into a future Civil Code reform or a future updated anti-discrimination measure.[17] The changes to the law were postponed multiple times.[18]

In June 2016, Venezuela's opposition announced that it will work on a civil union bill. A prominent committee member said that the new Registry Law will allow couples to seek some benefits.[19]

It has been widely reported that same-sex civil unions are recognized in the state of Mérida. These reports do not cite any statutory or decisional law to support such recognition.[20]


On 28 December 2005, then Vice President José Vicente Rangel announced that a referendum would be held sometime in 2007 to make same-sex marriage legal in the country. No such referendum subsequently occurred.[21]

On 31 January 2014, during a debate on a Civil Code reform bill, LGBT activists submitted a proposal seeking to legalize same-sex marriage. The proposal was accompanied with 21'000 signatures as well as support from the governments of the states of Barinas, Falcón, Mérida, Monagas, Táchira, Yaracuy and Zulia.[22] The proposal seeks to alter Article 44 of the Civil Code to allow for same-sex marriages in Venezuela.

Public opinion[edit]

According to a Pew Research Center survey, conducted between November 8, 2013 and February 12, 2014, 28% of Venezuelans supported same-sex marriage, 61% were opposed.[23][24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Venezuela: Situation and treatment of homosexuals; recourse available to those who have been harassed based on their sexual orientation (2004 - February 2006)
  2. ^ Venezuela's sexual revolution
  3. ^ Venezuela’s Sexual Revolution Within the Revolution
  4. ^ a b (in Spanish) TSJ admite demanda para anular artículo del Código Civil que impide matrimonio homosexual
  5. ^ "Constitución de la República Bolivariana de Venezuela" (PDF) (in Spanish). Retrieved 14 April 2016. 
  6. ^ Gay Politics in Venezuela
  8. ^ a b "Constitution - Title III: Duties, human rights, and guarantees (Art. 19-135)". Retrieved 14 April 2016. 
  9. ^ Piden al TSJ modificar el Código Civil para permitir matrimonio igualitario
  10. ^ a b "Más de 12 mil parejas homosexuales venezolanas se beneficiarían con matrimonio igualitario". Alba TV. 5 May 2016. 
  11. ^ "The Struggle isn't Over": Venezuela Moves Towards Marriage Equality". 5 May 2016. 
  12. ^ (in Spanish) Día Mundial contra la Homofobia y la Transfobia en Venezuela aún hay materias pendientes
  13. ^ Demanda Popular de Nulidad por Inconstitucionalidad del Art. 44 del Código Civil
  14. ^ "Holder Wendell v. The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (1:16-cv-11649), Massachusetts District Court". Retrieved 2016-09-28. 
  15. ^ Orecchio-Egresitz, Haven. "Gay Yarmouth Port couple sue to have marriage recognized". Retrieved 2016-09-28. 
  16. ^ Venezuela: Same-sex partnerships on fast track to being legally recognized, says legislator
  17. ^ Same-Sex Unions Not On the Table After All?
  18. ^ (in Spanish) El Tiempo. En busca del matrimonio gay en Venezuela. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  19. ^ (in Spanish) AN promoverá leyes para reconocer unión de personas del mismo sexo
  20. ^ (in Spanish) Legal Recognition of Same-Sex Relationships: Venezuela
  21. ^ Venezuela’s Sexual Revolution Within the Revolution
  22. ^ Becker, Sabina (29 January 2014). "Equal marriage: coming soon to Venezuela?". News of the Restless. 
  23. ^ Religion in Latin America Chapter 5: Social Attitudes
  24. ^ Religion in Latin America Appendix A: Methodology