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Brazilian judicial council orders notaries to recognize same-sex marriage

(File) A gay couple poses during the gay pride parade in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on November 18, 2012.

Story highlights

  • In Brazil, notaries officiate marriages and civil unions, including same-sex ones
  • Notaries had refused to perform such marriages and civil union conversions, citing lack of law
  • Council of Justice president says resolution reflects changes in society

The Brazilian National Council of Justice, which oversees the nation's judiciary, passed a resolution Tuesday that denies notaries the right to refuse to perform same-sex marriages.

In Brazil, notaries officiate marriages and civil unions.

Recently, 12 Brazilian states began allowing same-sex couples to marry or convert their civil unions into marriages. However, since the Supreme Court does not carry legislative powers, it was up to each notary to officiate at their discretion, and many refused, citing the lack of law.

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Joaquim Barbosa, president of the Council of Justice, said in the decision that notaries cannot continue to refuse to "perform a civil wedding or the conversion of a stable civil union into a marriage between persons of the same sex."

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Barbosa, who also presides over the Supreme Court, says the resolution merely follows the transformation of society.

    "Our society goes through many changes, and the National Council of Justice cannot be indifferent to them," he said.

    Civil unions between same-sex couples have been recognized in Brazil since 2011, after the Supreme Court ruled that the same rights and rules that apply to "stable unions" of heterosexual couples would apply to same-sex couples, including the right to joint declaration of income tax, pension, inheritance and property sharing. People in same-sex unions are also allowed to extend health benefits to their partners, following the same rules applied to heterosexual couples.

    Brazilian lawmakers have debated same-sex marriage, but in most cases, the bills introduced have not progressed through Congress.

    Brazilian neighbors Uruguay and Argentina are the only other two countries in Latin America that have laws allowing same-sex couples to marry.