Brazil's High Court of Justice [official website, in Portuguese] on Tuesday upheld [press release, in Portuguese] the same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive] of two women. The court voted 4-1 in favor [AFP report] of recognizing same-sex marriages. The ruling was necessary following a number of disparate rulings by lower courts on petitions from couples seeking to have their civil unions recognized as full marriages. The union at issue had been denied full marriage rights by two lower courts, but those decisions were reversed by the high court, which took a step in this direction beginning in May, when it unanimously recognized rights [JURIST report] for partners in same-sex civil unions [JURIST news archive]. Through that ruling, gay couples in "stable relationships" were given the rights to community property, alimony, health insurance and tax benefits, adoption, and inheritance rights. While the state courts are not required to follow the decision rendered by the Supreme Court, it is hoped that the ruling will still work to discourage states within the country from blocking same-sex marriages.
Foreign and domestic courts and legislatures are increasingly addressing the issue of same-sex civil unions and marriages. In August, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera [official profile, in Spanish] proposed legislation [JURIST report] that would legalize same-sex civil unions. The bill would extend inheritance and social welfare rights to same-sex couples and unmarried heterosexual couples. Pinera insisted that marriage is between a man and a women but acknowledged that other forms of relationships are effective and that the state is obligated to recognize, protect and respect those partnerships. In April, Hungary added a prohibition against gay marriage [JURIST report] to its constitution. France upheld a same-sex marriage ban [JURIST report] in January. Same-sex marriage is recognized in jurisdictions in Mexico and the US and is recognized nationwide in Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and South Africa [JURIST reports].