|Photo Credit: AFP|
The 10 justices unanimously ruled that partners in a same-sex union had the same legal rights as a man and woman in a marriage. "Those who opt for a homosexual union cannot be treated less than equally as citizens," Justice Camen Lucia said. "No one should be deprived of rights on the basis of sexual orientation," added Justice Ricardo Lewandowski.
President Dilma Rousseff's Attorney General Roberto Gurgel had backed the plan granting gays and lesbians the right to form civil unions, and on guaranteeing them the same legal rights as other couples.
"Lacking a law approved in Congress regulating gay civil unions and homosexual marriage, the recognition by the Supremes is the best thing that could happen," said Maria Berenice Dias, a judge specializing in gay rights.
Dias said that the rights of a "stable union" are virtually the same as those of a marriage, because they recognize the couple as a family unit.
"It means that no judge can deny rights" such as retirement benefits, inheritance, health benefits and the adoption of children, Dias said. Many gay couples had already obtained recognition of their rights in individual legal cases, but now the rules will be clear and universal, Dias added. "Discrimination generates hatred," said Justice Carlos Ayres Britto, who wrote the ruling.
"We expect that this decision will be an important step for other actions, and that the Senate follows the example of Argentina, which has already approved same-sex civil marriages," the head of the Gay Group of Bahia, Marcelo Cerqueira, told AFP.
For years Brazil has held what is considered the largest gay pride parade in the world, held in Sao Paulo, but "we are also number one when it comes to assassination, discrimination and violence against homosexuals," Cerqueira said.
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