By Patricia Maresch, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Days after the Supreme Court voted in favor of allowing same-sex couples many of the same legal rights as married couples, the Evangelical Church says it wants to have the legal right to prohibit same-sex marriage ceremonies. The Supreme Court voted ten to zero to recognize same-sex unions, which will allow gay couples in Brazil to share inheritances, pensions, and health plans, as well as the adoption of children and a legal route to divide belongings after a separation.
The ruling, however, stopped short of legalizing gay marriage, which would include public or religious ceremonies. Civil unions though, must be registered at notary offices.
Despite that, Congressman João Campos of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) still wants to include the right to say ‘no’ to perform a gay wedding in the new legislation. “It would be nice to make it explicit. That way we can avoid a biased judge to impose on a pastor to perform a gay wedding.”
According to Campos there have been cases of an injunction forcing the Evangelical church to perform weddings of people who did not follow the church. He fears this can also happen with homosexuals.
Brazil’s first openly gay congressman Jean Wyllys of the Socialism and Freedom Party (PSOL), thinks Campos’ proposal aims to divert the focus of discussion about Gay Civil Rights. “It’s a desperate attempt to confuse public opinion,” says Wyllys.
LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexuals and Transgender) activists welcomed the ruling as a “historic day” for the country. “The degree of civilization of a country can be measured by the way people in a nation treat their homosexual community,” the head of Rio de Janeiro’s GLBT-committee Claudio Nascimento told Brazilian press.
The main opposition of the gay rights movement in Brazil generally comes from religious conservatives, and is the strongest in the rural interior of the country. The Roman Catholic Church made various attempts to stop the ruling. It argued the only union referred to within Brazil’s constitution was that between a man and a woman.
Brazil is the world’s largest Catholic nation, but the country also has an astronomical growth of evangelical churches. Including gay evangelical churches, such as the Igreja Contemporânea in Lapa, in the center of Rio.
While Rio de Janeiro is often ranked as a top destination for gay tourists and Copacabana hosts a large parade each year, watchdog groups say violence and discrimination against gays is on the rise. According to a report from Grupo Gay da Bahia, 260 gays were murdered in 2010 and the groups says homophobia is an endemic problem in Brazil.
“This is a historic moment for all Brazilians, not just homosexuals,” says Marcelo Cerqueira of Grupo Gay da Bahia: “This ruling will help. When a country judges a case like this in our favor, it will have an impact across the judicial and law enforcement sectors.”