Same sex marriage has effectively been declared legal in Brazil after the country’s National Council of Justice (NCJ) announced that notaries can no longer refuse to marry gay couples. The Council, which includes prominent lawyers and judges, voted fourteen to one in favour of the measure, which will also require notaries to convert existing civil unions into marriages if requested.
This decision follows a ruling made by Brazil’s Supreme Court in 2011 that allowed same sex civil unions to take place; however, these ‘unions’ did not entail the same rights as heterosexual marriages. Gay couples will now be allowed to marry, and as such will have greater rights in terms of child adoption.
Previously, local notaries had the power to refuse to issue marriage certificates to gay couples if they wished to; this new resolution would prevent that from happening. NCJ judge Guilherme Calmon warned that “If a notary public officer rejects a gay marriage, he could eventually face disciplinary sanction.”
A federal law will need to be put in place to ratify the new decision, which has been met with opposition from conservative religious quarters. It may also be subject to appeals before the Supreme Court, and is likely to face resistance in Congress. However, this breakthrough alone in gay rights legislation could be seen as a triumph in Brazil, which has the largest Catholic population in the world.
Brazil is the third Latin American country to legalise gay marriage after Argentina and Uruguay respectively. Gay marriage has been allowed in Mexico City since 2009, but not in the rest of Mexico.