Brazil Legalizes Same-Sex Civil Unions, Is (Not Really) Almost Paradise

Brazil has a lot of rights

Brazil became the 20th nation to approve same-sex civil unions at the national level yesterday. The ruling was unanimous, with a 10-0 vote. Same-sex civil unions will obtain the same rights/rules currently held by heterosexual unions such as joint delcaration of income tax, pension, inheritance and property sharing.

Gilmar Mendes, a Supreme Court justice, told Agencia Brasil that the court has an obligation to protect gay couples who are still victims of prejudice and violence.

Cleber Vicente, project coordinator for the Rainbow Group in Rio de Janeiro, called the decision “a historic achievement.” He said: “There is something to celebrate this result. It is a struggle that stretches for over 15 years.”

Because the Roman Catholic Church isn’t exactly a gay fan club, gay rights groups have hit a lot of walls in Latin America. But in 2009, Mexico City approved same-sex marriage and Argentina followed suit in 2010.

Regardless of these advancements, many report that interpretations of the Roman Catholic Church’s doctrine still sets the tone, at least sometimes, and with devastating consequences:

In a recent interview with the online Brazilian magazine Terra (, GGB’s founder and former president, Luiz Mott, a prominent gay activist since the 1970s, said, “Brazil is the world leader in deaths of its LGBT population.” Mott blamed the homophobic violence in part on the intensely anti-gay propaganda of evangelical and Catholic leaders.

There is “a whole cultural and institutional homophobia that still exists and has, in evangelical churches and Catholic churches, the great manufacturing centers for such ideological weapons,” he said.

Hate crime statistics are especially troubling when you consider how gay-friendly Brazil wants to be. It’s TEEMING with homos — hosting over 300 LGBT organizations and the world’s largest LGBT Pride celebration, the São Paulo Gay Pride Parade, which attracted 4 million celebrators in 2009.

Same-sex activity has been legal since 1830, military service since 1969, adoption since last year, and now, you know, civil unions. According to statistics which apparently are “contested,” 7.8% of Brazillians are gay men, 4.9% gay women, 2.6% bisexual men and 1.4% bisexual women. According to the 2010 Brazilian census, 60,002 same-sex couples share a home.

In addition to being pleasant for its residents, Brazil is a super-popular travel destination for gay traveler — 1 out of every 4 tourists to Brazil are said to be gay & lesbian. It was voted Best Global Destination by tripOut gay travel. Rio de Jinero is frequently crowned The Sexiest Place on Earth. The annual Carnival, gay beaches, legendary LGBT Pride festivals and hopping gay nightlife have made Brazil an LGBT fave.

Nevertheless, murders of LGBTs have grown by 113% over the last five years. From The Bahia Gay Group via Global Voices Online:

Among the dead, [there were] 140 gay men (54%), 110 transvestites (42%) and 10 lesbians (4%). Brazil confirms its position as the world champion of murders of homosexuals: in the United States, which has 100 million more people than our country, in 2010, 14 murders of transvestites were reported, while in Brazil, there were 110. The risk of a homosexual being murdered in Brazil is 785% higher than in the United States.

But activism remains strong, and this is one giant leap in the proper direction — so People of Brazil, HOW DO YOU FEEL TODAY? According to our stats, Brazil ranks 25th in the country game for “most Autostraddle readers.” So there must be a handful at least.

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intern veronica

no lies, just love

veronica has written 12 articles for us.


  1. Way to go Brazil!

    I have to dispute the “first Roman Catholic country” thing though – Argentina already legalized same sex marriage, and it actually subsidizes the Catholic church.

    But Argentina wasn’t even the first Catholic country to legalize SSM. Catholicism is the largest religious denomination in Belgium, Spain and Portugal, and although it’s 43% of the population and not an absolute majority, also Canada. (We had some serious Catholic Church interference in politics during the legalization fight in Canada – many of our MPs and the Prime Minister at the time were Catholics, and some were even denied communion.)

    • You make good points; however, how many of those other countries have a 130 foot tall statue of Jesus on top of a 2500 ft mountain overlooking their second largest city?

      • Ask a Rio native and they’ll tell you that God did such a wonderful job when creating the city that he wanted to save the penthouse for his son. ;)
        But, seriously, if I remember correctly the statue was a gift from France. I guess the french like to give other countries big giant statues.

        • I get gifts from my crazy relatives all the time, doesn’t mean I keep them. France either clearly knows what kind of giant statues other countries like … or these other countries don’t know how to return their giant statues to the statue store without upsetting France’s feelings.

          Either way, all of these giant statues have me thinking France is definitely overcompensating for something.

          “Every man has two countries: his own, and France.” – Thomas Jefferson

          • Taking a look at their tower I think you’re on to something with the overcompensating.
            And the gifts could be worse… Could be a wooden horse from the Greeks.

      • and let us not believe the morons who make Jesus a hater; he was all about the love. The ‘christian’ ‘right’ is *neither* of those things. Go Brasil!

        • …..Have you read the bible? It’s chock full of hatred and killing, the few nice verses are the ones you christians like to talk about, but they’re few and far between.

          • Jesus could’ve been a cool character. He was all about love and rainbows and beards. I guess the idea of a god is comforting and easy and spineless because then a subscriber would just be devoid of any responsibility.

            It’s god’s PR’s and their hypocritical smug-ity and their mission to spread deep poisonous hate where there is a maaassive problem.

          • True, but she’s talking specifically about what Jesus said, in the Gospels. Jesus was pretty much all about hope and love. It’s the Old Testament, and the latter half of the New Testament, where the violence and hate all are, but Christians are not supposed to weigh those parts (especially the Old Testament) equally with Jesus’s statements. It is called Christ-ianity, after all.

      • Canada has a big lit-up cross on the mountain in the center of Montreal, its second biggest city. :)

        If you want to talk about religious domination of society, Québec before the Cultural Revolution of the 60s was all Jesus, all the time. I live not too far from a still-active nunnery in Montreal and every day I go down dozens of streets named after saints and martyrs.

        • yeah, and i actually love that cross. i will be pissed if they ever take it down.

      • Portugal has a replica of that statue overlooking Lisbon :D
        But I guess the first Roman catholic country to legalize SSM was Beligum

  2. Brazil has some *huge* class disparities. To me, that’s a pretty big qualifier for “paradise”. The murder rate in Brazil is five times higher than the murder rate in the US. In general. Not just for gays and lesbians.

    There’s more to being a good place to live than just same-sex marriage rights. That’s certainly a part of it, but just a part.

    • Yeah, I was just thinking, that’s great that people can legally enter into civil unions, but can they do it safely – with that kind of murder rate? Sounds like a step in the right direction though.

  3. Pingback: Brazil becomes largest nation yet to legalize civil unions – Christian Science Monitor | DavnecNews

  4. Hi guys!!
    Brazilian girl writing here!

    Great article, I was checking the site since yesterday to look for updates on the subject.

    We are obviously feeling thrilled today, actually for the first time in my life I feel proud of being Brazilian when it comes to justice, laws and supreme court decisions.

    The first step has been taken, but there a long way to go yet; that is SO true -> “a whole cultural and institutional homophobia that still exists and has, in evangelical churches and Catholic churches, the great manufacturing centers for such ideological weapons,”.

    Anyways…today is gay party day for sure!!=)

    PS: Where I live(, right now, it’s 10 degrees Celsius; I’m a 25 year old doctor that hates “carnaval” and football.
    So, please, a little less of the brazilian-bikini-bigbut-carnaval-stuff.

    Sorry for the grammar mistakes .

    • i totally agree with your comment. when i first heard the news i was obviously exhilarated, but then i started reading comments people were leaving online and i was just completely disheartened. homophobia is extremely institutionalized. i’m a student and even in school this is very apparent, sometimes even teachers join in using gay slurs and whatnot. the result is ignorance and mindless hate. some of the commenters were comparing homosexuality with incest, bestiality and pedophilia, besides the usual religious nutjobs of course. i’m trying to focus on the positive but there’s still just so much work to be done.

      anyway, glad to see a fellow rio grandense on as!! i’m from santa maria :)

      also, small correction on the article: the website is not a gay magazine, it’s primarily a news website with sections dedicated to various interests (politics, entertainment, sports, fashion, etc).

      • this is weird, like every news source we read seems to have contained at least one incorrect fact

        • if you’re referring to the website, is really just a news website and not a gay magazine.

  5. The catholic church in Brazil is kinda like the Queen of England, people will tell you they’re catholic but they won’t even remember last time they went to mass. The real problem lies with anti-gay propaganda of evangelical church leaders.
    And not that it makes it any better but the stats about violence against gays… I don’t think they’ve grown by that much, it’s just that now people are not afraid and ashamed of going to the police and telling them WHY they were attacked.
    Anyway, I’ll raise a glass of Caipirinha to equality! All weekend long!

  6. This makes me proud to be Brazilian- who would have thought that, out of my two countries of citizenship, the predominately Catholic one would be the first to legalize gay marriage?

  7. First, just a quick correction: adoption has not been legalized last year, but will become legal with this ruling, although there are still a ton of legal problems with this, but I won’t bore you all with it. For now, I’ll just say there a REALLY GOOD CHANCE gay couples will be able to start adopting now, but it’s not 100%.

    As a Brazilian, and a Law student, I have to say I was pretty freaking happy about this ruling, especially with the basis for the decision, and some of the votes of the justices were awesome (hell, they even quotes Nancy Fraser and used words such as “heteronormativity”.

    I think it’s a really important first step, but obviously there is still a lot to be done when it comes to actually guaranteeing all these rights we have.

    I would not let the statistics, however, speak for themselves. While I acknowledge that we still have serious problems regarding prejudice, violence, and other types of discrimination, I think Brazilian society has changed a lot in the past few years, and my experience, as a whole, has been a really good one. To be honest with you, I was more scared for some of the Republican red-necks I’ve seen while living in DC than of their Brazilian version.

    Another cool Brazilian fact and then I’m done: Brazil has just started allowing sex-reassignment surgery (I’m sorry, I don’t know if this is the right term) for FTMs and MTFs on private hospitals linked to the public health system, which means that, once you get an authorization, they are actually free. :) We’ll see how that works.

    • Hi Luzia

      Since you are quite familiar with the brazilian adoption aspects, may I kindly ask the following question:
      My brazilian (male) partner has a 13 year old daughter that lives with him and I in Switzerland for five years (the child’s mother agreed to this). Can I as a (swiss) stepparent adopt the child in Brazil without the mother having to give up her parental rights?

  8. As a resident Autostraddle user who has lived in Salvador da BAHIA, let me just say, “Parabéns Brasil! Ordem e Progresso para sempre!”

    O Cristo Redentor, The Christ statue, wasn’t a gift from France, actually. It was conceived by a Brazilian Catholic priest, designed by a local Brazilian engineer and then actually sculpted by a Frenchman.

    And while this is AWESOME, the murder rate and the homophobia is enough to discourage anyone from actually getting a union. It’s amazing that Brasil is doing so much more legally than the United States, but still there’s a long way to go. Did you know that racism is illegal in Brazil? It doesn’t mean that people don’t racially discriminate in Brazil; it’s just a legal step forward. Socially, we all have a long way to go.

    Everything is changing slowly. One step is better than no step! And I’ll jump all over the place once gay couples get to adopt in Brazil. Now if only the U.S. could stop courting the country to keep it from rising as a world power, Brazil could be on its way.

    • >>Did you know that racism is illegal in Brazil? It doesn’t mean that people don’t racially discriminate in Brazil; it’s just a legal step forward. Socially, we all have a long way to go.>>

      An excellent point.

    • I must say, though it’s nice to hear that the Christ Statue has a Brazilian heritage, I’m slightly disappointed. … I was ready to name France the official exporter of architectural strap-ons.

      As for the other stuff you mentioned (“stuff” clearly referring to those other less important issues of equality and inclusivity), here’s to hoping that the government can continue to make the changes that bring better standards of living to all people. Brazil is a beautiful country, rich in history and culture and natural resources, but it has some staggering inequality between the classes. Though this isn’t a perfect amendment, at least it gives me hope that the government is working toward closing those inequality gaps.

  9. Yesterday was a day to remember. I was at a gay bar and we all prompted into a standing ovation when we heard the news from the Supreme Court justice.
    Today, me and my girlfriend wore veils just for fun.
    And it is funny because all i’ve been hearing from may friends is that “justice has been made”!

  10. ilike to have sex, mmmmmmm, boobs, i love boobz, do U have big boobz? hump me.

  11. It was really nice to see this post today. i love autostraddle even more.

    It is indeed a great day for brazilians. Mainly because this is a response to the latest hate crimes against gays.
    Marriage is a long distance shot, but we will get there.

  12. Good job Brazil for taking an important step! Legislation is only one piece of the puzzle, obviously, but I think it makes the other areas of the fight a little harder when there’s clear support like this from the government.

    Congrats Brazilian Straddlers!

  13. This is the first time in a really long time that I actually hear good news concerning Brazilian politics, and I can’t believe civil unions are now legal.

    Although homophobia is very institutionalised in Brazil and violence (physical and verbal) against LGBT people is quite common all over the country this ruling demonstrates that things are slowly changing and it’s nice to see it happen in a country where the majority of the population claims to be catholic.

    Also, In my personal opinion/experience, Brazil is not pleasant for its residents. There’s just so much inequality between classes, corruption in the government and violence (family members have been held hostage and almost killed more than once) that living there can be anything but pleasant.

    • social inequality greatly affects the experience one might have towards living as a homosexual in Brazil. if you’ve got the money to go to all the amazing nightclubs and bars, etc. that cater for LGB (sometimes T) people, you’ll probably have a similar experience to someone in the U.S or in the Netherlands. the stats make sense to those who live in poor areas, where there is blatant homophobia all around. i spent two months in a very poor village in the northeast of brazil doing volunteer work and had to see myself going right back into the closet because i really feared for my physical integrity. it’s not just about the evangelicals but sometimes more about being a very sexist macho-oriented culture that cannot accept gay men and will only accept gay women as long as they can somehow be fetishized. (the number of times i’ve had men come up to me and my gf to “join” – even at pride – is appalling.)

      things, however, are improving and therefore wouldn’t go as far as saying that it is anything but pleasant to live here. there is much more visibility for LGB on television (soap-operas, etc.) and the fact that we have had a left-winged presidency for the last eight years is really making brazil a more just place to live in. now if we could only get homophobia to be criminalized…

  14. Whereas Brazil does have a problem with religion, and catholics are conservative and influential, they are not the group causing grief to any liberal move. Brazil’s main problem are the protestants which have become extremely powerful, and preach a doctrine of ignorance and intolerance and have found ways into the Congress. Therefore, it was necessary to find a loophole in the constitution to grant these rights to same sex couples. Unfortunately, the marriage law has been stalled in the congress for 10 years and it is likely to not pass if it ever comes to voting.

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