Same-sex Unions in Brazil

Find out the legal rights of same-sex couples in Brazil, and the situation regarding LGBT marriage...

In May 2011, Brazil's Supreme Court (STF) ruled to recognize gay and lesbian unions that can be established as being Stable Unions (União Estável). Marriage law in Brazil is determined by federal and not state law; it defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The constitution and federal law do not specifically prohibit same-sex marriage, but fail to acknowledge it officially.

In May 2013, a bill was passed preventing notaries public from refusing to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples. This effectively legalizes same-sex marriage in Brazil, but opponents of th bill may be able to challenge the legislation.

The Brazilian constitution outlaws prejudice based on origin, race, gender, skin color, age and any other form of discrimination. This was used as the basis of a Public Civil Action (Açào Civil Pública) in 2005 which, had it been successful, would have legitimized same-sex marriage throughout Brazil. It was decided by the court, however, that this matter should be determined by Congress and not in court.

A bill was proposed in Congress in 1995 to change federal law and allow the recognition of same-sex unions, but it faced strong opposition and was not approved until May 2011.

Rights of Same-sex Couples

Since the late 1990s, many concessions have been granted to same-sex couples and from May 2011 law recognizes "stable homosexual unions" as legal. Same-sex couples in a stable union qualify for the same rights and obligations as a family entity (entidade familiar). These rights extend to inheritance, pensions, social security and health insurance, shared income tax return, the right to adopt children and, in the case of separation, legal alimony and separation of property.

As of May 2013, a homosexual couple cannot be denied a marriage license by a notary public.

How to register a Stable Union

Stable Unions can be registered with a legal professional, an official office or proved by a joint bank account or proof of living at the same address.

If a same-sex couple in Brazil can prove their relationship falls into this category they are entitled to the following rights:

  • The National Social Security Institute (Ministério da Prêvidencia Social) will regard them no differently to a married couple in the areas of death and pension benefits
  • Partners can receive insurance benefits
  • Partners can be declared as dependents for income tax purposes
  • Non-nationals partnered to Brazilians can receive residency permits

How to convert a Stable Union into a marriage

A same-sex couple with a Stable Union can ask a notary public to convert their Stable Union into a marriage by presenting them with a written application. This has been the case since May 2011, but until May 2013 notaries public could refuse to convert the Union. Any notary public who refuses to convert their Stable Union into a marriage will now face disciplinary sanctions.

Further Information

  • BBC News on the rights for same-sex couples in May 2011
  • BBC News on the rights for same-sex couples in May 2013