May 14, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
Brazilian panel opens door to same-sex marriage
Brazil, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, pride, LGBT, rainbow flag, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay pride in São Paulo, Brazil (Photo by Agência Brasil via Wikimedia Commons)

A Brazilian judicial panel on Tuesday ruled registrars in the South American country cannot deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The newspaper O Globo reported members of the National Council of Justice that oversees Brazil’s judicial system ruled 14-1 in support of nuptials for gays and lesbians.

Agence France-Presse said the body “affirmed that the expression of homosexuality and homosexual affection cannot serve as a basis for discriminatory treatment, which has no support in the Constitution.” The news agency said Joaquim Barbosa, the chief justice of the Brazilian Supreme Federal Court who heads the National Council of Justice, referred to a 2011 ruling that said gays and lesbians can enter into civil unions.

“I am very happy,” gay Congressman Jean Wyllys wrote on his website. He and Congresswoman Erika Kokay in March introduced a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry in the South American country. “Brazil just jointed the ever growing list of civilized and democratic countries that recognize that LGBT people have the same civil rights as any other citizen.”

Brasilia, the country’s capital, and 11 of Brazil’s 26 states that include Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo have already extended marriage rights to same-sex couples.

Even though the National Council of Justice’s ruling appears to have extended nuptials to gays and lesbians across the country, Wyllys noted that Brazilian lawmakers have yet to approve a nationwide same-sex marriage law.

“The [National Council of Justice]’s decision does not mean that we have won in the National Congress,” he said on his Twitter page. “After this decision, it will be difficult for Congress to not approve [the bill.]”

Same-sex marriage continues to gain traction in Latin America

Gays and lesbians can legally tie the knot in neighboring Argentina and 11 other countries, Mexico City and nine U.S. states and D.C.

Uruguay’s same-sex marriage law will take effect on Aug. 1. Lawmakers in New Zealand and France have also passed same-sex marriage bills in recent weeks.

The Colombian Senate last month rejected a bill that would have allowed nuptials for gays and lesbians in the South American country. Gays and lesbians in Colombia can legally register their relationships on June 20 if lawmakers fail to act upon the Constitutional Court’s 2011 ruling that ordered them to pass legislation within two years that extends the same benefits heterosexuals receive through marriage.

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera in 2011 proposed a bill that would extend civil unions to same-sex couples in the country.

He has yet to formally introduce it.

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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