Update: Currently, the STF is requesting that the Brazilian Congress pass a bill to make this the Law of the land as rights to Gay & Lesbian couples can be denied without legal ramifications. With this decision, however, Gay & Lesbian couples can sue to receive any rights denied, and would win as precedent has been set.
Brazil's 11-member Supreme Court decided that those in same-sex civil unions will have the same rights as heterosexual married couples. From Brazil's Veja Web site:
A maioria dos ministros do Supremo Tribunal Federal (STF) reconheceu a união civil entre homossexuais, assegurando a esses casais os mesmos direitos dos casais heterossexuais. Dos onze ministros do STF, seis já tinham votado a favor da tese até o fim da tarde desta quinta-feira.
The Majority of Supreme Court Judges recognized the civil unions of gays & lesbians, assuring that these couples have the same rights as heterosexual couples. Of the 11 judges six have already voted for this measure by late afternoon Thursday.
Judge José Antonio Dias Toffol - who holds strong religious views - recused himself from the vote. In the end, 10 of the 11 judges voted for yes to the new law. Prior to the ruling, Brazilian law allowed supporters and those against the suit to speak to the court. Several Gay & Lesbian groups spoke in favor, while the only speaking against it was the Catholic Church, who claimed this was a step toward "polygamy and incestuousness."
“Until there is a law regulating homosexual civil union and marriage, the high court's recognition of a stable unions is the best thing that could happen so that gay couples rights are accepted once and for all,” said Judge Maria Berenice Dias before the vote.
The move is a landmark achievement for Brazil - a nation that has struggled with violence against the gay and lesbian community. That move also is a stellar achievement for new President Dilma Rousseff, who had her top prosecutor, Attorney General Roberto Gurgel fight for the verdict.
“Homosexuality is a (the way people are), not a crime. So why can't homosexuals have families? What has been preventing this is two things the Constitution finds abominable - intolerance and prejudice," said Judge Luis Fux - who was President Dilma's first Supreme Court selection.
Earlier this year, Representative Jean Wyllys - a one-time winner of the show "Big Brother Brasil" - introduced legislation to make Brazil the second South American nation after Argentina to allow Gay Marriage. That legislation is still pending.
Prior to today's ruling, same-sex couples could only have common-law marriages, but same-sex couples received 112 less rights tha hereosexual married couples.
Crossposted at William K. Wolfrum Chronicles