Brazil’s high court rules that notaries must register marriages for same-sex couples

15 May 2013

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By Adam Polaski - Freedom to Marry Blog

Today, the National Council of Justice in Brazil - the panel responsible for overseeing the Brazilian judicial system - ruled that government offices that issue marriage licenses have no standing to reject same-sex couples from marriage. The move clears the way for the freedom to marry and continues to move marriage forward in the country. The decision could be appealed to the country's Supreme Court. 

The official website for the Conselho Nacional de Justiça explains that notaries will be required to recognize the unions of same-sex couples: (Translated to English):

Notaries are prohibited from refusing to recognize the union of same-sex couples, the National Council of Justice approved by majority resolution. Notaries may not refuse to convert stable unions between couples of the same sex into marriage. 

The decision was made early on Tuesday during the 169th session of the Council. The judgement was based on the Supreme Court judgement that it is unconstitutional to treat stable unions between same-sex couples differently. The ruling today also took into account the decision by the Superior Court of Justice, which ruled that there could be no legal obstacles to the union of same-sex couples.

Since 2011, federal marriage laws in Brazil have been somewhat confusing; On May 5, 2011, the Supreme Federal Court voted to allow same-sex couples nationwide many of the legal rights as married couples (through a mechanism called "stable union"), and since June 2011, same-sex couples joined together in "stable union" may petition judges to convert their union into a marriage. The two-step process to being married can be performed across Brazil, and in recent months, many jurisdictions have ordered a final end to the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage. 

Before today, 14 of the 27 jursidictions in Brazil had determined that same-sex couples could marry without the two-step process: Alagoas (December 2011), Sergipe (July 2012), Espíritu Santo (August 2012), Bahía (November 2012), the Brazilian Federal District (December 2012), Piauí (December 2012), São Paulo (December 2012), Ceará (March 2013), Paraná (March 2013), Mato Grosso do Sul (April 2013), Rio de Janeiro (April 2013), Rondônia (April 2013), Paraíba (April 2013) and Santa Catarina (April 2013). 

Freedom to Marry founder and president Evan Wolfson applauded the high court's decision. He said:

With today's ruling in Brazil solidifying the progress made in Brazilian states and its national capital, Latin America's largest country today joined the many other nations on five continents where same-sex couples can share in the freedom to marry. With victories for the freedom to marry in Mexico, Uruguay, New Zealand, and France already this year, and the British Parliament set to vote later this May, the global momentum for marriage reflects and reinforces the progress here in the United States, with three states already voting for marriage this year even as the Supreme Court is set to rule by the end of June. 

The news out of Brazil is the latest step forward for the freedom to marry internationally. This year, the legislatures in Uruguay, France, and New Zealand have taken definitive votes to pass the freedom to marry for same-sex couples nationwide. After marriage legislation takes effect in Uruguay, France and New Zealand, 14 countries will have the freedom to marry for same-sex couples nationwide. 

By Adam Polaski Freedom to Marry Blog