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Brazil legalizes same-sex unions

posted 6 May 2011, 13:32 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 6 May 2011, 13:34 ]

Brazil's top judges pass a ruling to legalize homosexual unions nationwide.

BRASILIA, BRAZIL (MAY 6, 2011) REUTERS - razil's Federal Supreme Court legally recognized homosexual partnerships on Thursday (May 5), in a landmark case for gay rights in a country with the world's largest population of Roman Catholics.

Judges at the STF, as the country's top court is known, voted 10 to zero in favor of gay partnerships, setting a

legal precedent in Latin America's largest country.

The majority argued that the Constitution did not explicitly rule out gay partnerships and that these were an expression of the right to privacy and equality before the law.

"(The Supreme Court) rejected all the preliminary proposals with a unanimous vote and finally ruled as righteous both actions, also through voting," announced STF President Cezar Peluso.

The decision grants gay couples most of the rights enjoyed by heterosexual partners, including pension benefits, inheritance and, some lawyers say, possibly the right to adopt children. Lower courts had ruled both in favor of and against partnerships, which are not governed by a specific law.

Some states had already legal tools to legalize homosexual unions, but the latest ruling expands the recognition to the whole country.

Brazil's gay community celebrated the decision, saying it showed the government is willing to defend the rights of citizens regardless of their sexual and race condition.

However, opinions were divided among the 190 million Brazilians, 140 million of which are Roman Catholic.

"Who are we to criticize other people's decisions? I think the (sexual) option is up to each one of us, and, as I see it, this (approval of gay union) would be a natural thing," said Rio de Janeiro resident Sergio Moreira.

"I don't think this is totally right, but we have to respect," said Elaine Cristina, also a Rio native.

Brazil's Roman Catholic Church had argued against the decision, saying the only union the Constitution referred to was that between a man and a woman.

Head of Rio state's Gay, Lesbian and Transsexuals Committee, Claudio Nascimento, welcomed the decision, but drew attention to the ongoing struggle against homophobia.

"I feel that my soul has been washed. I feel very proud, but we also know that the fight is not over. It has only begun, because we have a large agenda to debate in the national Congress, especially concerning the violence issue and the discrimination of LGBT (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals)," said Nascimento.

Most major cities in Brazil have an active and open gay community, and Sao Paulo every year hosts the world's largest gay parade, with about 3 million people attending.

Despite that, the country has struggled with recent episodes of violence against the gay community -- including harassment and beatings at central points in Sao Paulo. In rural areas and even in the nation's capital, Brasilia, gays are often ridiculed and harassed.

The ruling makes Brazil the second South American nation after Argentina to allow gay partnerships.