Brazil allows same-sex unions to get marriage status

BRASILIA, Brazil Brazilian notary publics must register same-sex civil unions as marriages if the couple requests it, the country's National Council of Justice said Tuesday.

The council that oversees the country's judiciary said in a statement that notary publics cannot refuse to marry gay couples or convert a same-sex civil union into a marriage if that's what the pair wants.

The council based its decision on a 2011 Supreme Court ruling that recognized same-sex civil unions. The court said at the time that gay couples are entitled to same legal rights as heterosexual pairs when it comes to alimony, retirement benefits of a partner who dies and inheritances, among other issues.

Those opposed to the council's ruling can file an appeal with the Supreme Court.

Fourteen of Brazil's 27 states so far have legalized same-same marriages.

Efforts in Congress to approve a bill legalizing gay marriage across the nation have been thwarted by conservative evangelical legislators.

Gay rights movements cheered the council's decision.

"It is a major step that will ensure equality among heterosexual and homosexual couples," Carlos Magno Fonseca, president of the Brazilian Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Association told reporters.

Last year, 1,277 same sex couples registered such civil unions with notary publics.

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