For the second time in as many months I happened to be in a country when historic LGBT events have occurred. First, in Botswana in March of this year when the human rights organization, Bonela, and the LGBT association LeGaBiBo, for the first time ever, filed a High Court suit against the government claiming the country’s anti-gay laws currently on the books are unconstitutional.
The second happened May 5, 2011 in Brazil when the Federal Supreme Court ruled unanimously (10 to 0) that Civil Unions are legally acceptable relationships between adult citizens of the same gender. The ruling grants that gay couples are entitled to most of the rights of heterosexual partners, including marital ceremonies, pension benefits, inheritance and, according to some lawyers, the right to adopt children. (photo, Iguacu Falls Brazil side)
"This is a historic moment for all Brazilians, not just homosexuals . This judgment will change everything for us in society–and for the better," said Marcelo Cerqueira, president of the Brazilian gay rights group Grupo Gay da Bahia, based in Salvador.
The ruling was slow in coming as it worked its way through lower courts for two years, which had voted both against and in favor of the LGBT plaintiffs. After today’s final ruling one of the leading LGBT activists, Claudio Nascimento, head of Rio de Janeiro state’s Gay, Lesbian and Transsexuals Committee said (as GlobalGayz has said before), "The degree of civilization of a country can be measured by the way people in a nation treat their homosexual community…it’s a historic day for Brazil".
It’s a great victory–to a degree. The Court decision is subject to legislated laws. That’s the next laborious step, to lobby congress for a permanent statute that validates same-sex unions, as well as passing a law that criminalizes homophobic activity. This will be a daunting challenge due to the strong opposition from church leaders (some of whom are also congress members) especially the conservative Catholic and Evangelical denominations. Religion is the most cited reason for opposing gay rights. Regionally, opposition to the gay rights movement has been strongest in rural interior regions.
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