Brazil's Supreme Court has unanimously voted for civil unions for same-sex couples, reports the AP.
In a 10-0 vote, with one abstention, the justices said gay couples deserve the same legal rights as heterosexual pairs. When it comes to alimony, retirement benefits of a partner who dies, and inheritances, among other issues. The ruling, however, stopped short of legalizing gay marriage. In Latin America, that is legal only in neighboring Argentina and in Mexico City.
Brazil's ruling sets a judicial precedent that must be honored by all public institutions, including notary publics where civil unions must be registered. The request for the Supreme Court to recognize civil unions came two years ago from the Brazilian attorney general's office, largely because legislation that would give same-sex couples the rights enjoyed by married heterosexual couples has been stalled in Congress for more than a decade.
Minister Luis Fux was the first to submit his vote. Fux said that because homosexuality is not a crime, "there is no reason" to prevent gays and lesbians from forming families, reports Estado News (translation).
Brazil's twenty-six states and Distrito Federal have made progress on LGBT rights in recent years. In December 2010, the federal government decreed that members of same-sex couples are entitled to social security survivor’s benefits in the event of the partner’s death.