Sexuality Policy Watch

Brazilian Supreme Court gives unanimous judgement in favour of the legal recognition of same sex partnerships

For the National Brazilian LGBT Association – ABGLT, this is a victory for equal rights

“The love that dare not speak its name” (Oscar Wilde), has finally been recognized in Brazil. On Thursday, May 5th 2011, a two-day session of the country’s Supreme Court decided in favour of civil union between homosexual couples.

In their speeches, the ministers of the court based their arguments in favour of the legal recognition of same-sex partnerships on fundamental constitutional precepts, in particular the precepts of equality, freedom, human dignity and legal protection.

The Supreme Court decision means that same-sex couples in Brazil now have the same rights as straight couples.

The court’s judgment was accompanied by federal government authorities and their teams, including Minister Maria do Rosário, responsible for the President of the Republic’s Human Rights Secretariat; Justice Minister, José Eduardo Cardozo; the Solicitor General, Luís Inácio Lucena Adams; the Attorney General, Roberto Gurgel; as well as Senator Marta Suplicy – a longstanding defender of LGBT rights; and Federal Congressman Jean Wyllys.

The Supreme Court’s judgment arose as a result of the filing of two suits. The first suit was filed in 2008 by the government of the state of Rio de Janeiro, claiming the right of state government civil servants living in stable same-sex relationships to the same leave, pension and care rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples. The second suit was filed by the Attorney General’s Office, requiring the “recognition in Brazil of the partnership between same-sex couples, as a family entity, as long as the same requirements for stable relationships between a man and a woman are met; and that the same rights and duties of partners in stable relationships are extended to relationships between people of the same sex”.

For Toni Reis, president of the Brazilian Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans Association – ABGLT  “the Supreme Court decision is a victory for democracy. No one has lost as a result of the decision, not even those who are contrary, but a significant proportion of Brazilian men and women have gained access to equal rights guaranteed by the Federal Constitution thus far denied to same-sex couples. The Supreme Court has given an excellent example to the National Congress, which has not advanced with this issue since it was first submitted in 1995, through Bill No. 1151/95, proposed by the then Congresswoman and current Senator Marta Suplicy. This is yet another victory in the battle against inequality. We shall continue to demand that the National Congress approve legislation to criminalize homophobic discrimination and to recognize civil marriage between same-sex couples.”

On behalf of ABGLT, Reis extended thanks to the Governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro, Sérgio Cabral and his team, for taking the stance and initiative to file the suit. Deborah Duprat and Attorney General’s Office for the suit it filed; Supreme Court Minister Ayres Britto, rapporteur for the two suits, for his favourable decision; the Amici Curiae who defended the case during the Supreme Court’s session on May 4th; President Lula and President Dilma and their teams, for their favourable position in recognizing same sex civil partnerships; the Supreme Court ministers for their favourable decision; the Brazilian LGBT movement for its longstanding efforts to achieve equal rights; supporters of the LGBT cause; the media for its coverage of the Supreme /court judgment and the coverage it has given to cases of violence and discrimination against LGBT people; and the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics for including gay and lesbian couples in the 2010 Census, thus contributing in a fundamental manner with concrete data proving the undeniable existence of at least 60 thousand same-sex couples in Brazil.

In relation to the amici curiae contrary to the recognition of the rights of same-sex couples, namely the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops and the Eduardo Banks Association, Reis stated that “we don’t want to destroy anyone’s family, we want to form our own family in our own way”.

According to Maria Berenice Dias, president of the Brazilian Law Society’s Federal Council’s Commission on Sexual Diversity, who acted as an amicus curie on behalf of the Brazilian Institute of Family Law – IBDFAM, “the judgment of these suits is of huge significance, because it will make lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and trans persons visible. The recognition of homoaffectionate unions as family entities overcomes the perverse omission of the Legislative branch which, out of complete prejudice, has left the LGBT population outside of the legal system. The Supreme Court has reaffirmed the jurisprudence that has been gaining ground in the courts, ensuring legal protection equal to that already existing for heterosexual couples.”

In the opinion of lawyer Roberto Gonçale, of the Rio de Janeiro branch of the Brazilian Law Society, “the judgment by the highest level of the Brazilian justice system of these two cases regarding the rights and duties arising from relationships between same-sex couples represents extraordinary progress. It corresponds to the needs of a significant part of the Brazilian population, whose sexual orientation is not heterosexual, given that due to its sexual orientation this population was unable to make use of the everyday rights and duties open to heterosexuals.”

The 2nd National March Against Homophobia, will culminate in Brasília on May 17th and 18th, in commemoration of the International Day Against Homophobia. In recognition of today’s historic decision, the March will end with the 1st  Homoaffective Embrace for the Supreme Court.


Toni Reis, ABGLT president: +55 61 8181 2196

Irina Bacci, ABGLT vice president: + 55 11 9259 8621 / 7625 2741 / 8672 8192 / 2613 8288

Carlos Magno, ABGLT communications secretary: +55 31 8817 1170 / 3277 6908

Maria Berenice Dias, former appeal court judge and specialist in homoaffective law: +55 51 9155 5581 / 51 3019 0080

Roberto Gonçale, Brazilian Law Society – Rio de Janeiro Branch: +55 21 2531 1326 / 2531 2804 / 9805 0734

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