Op-ed: Why I Proposed Marriage Equality in Brazil
As a federal deputy elected
by the state of Rio de Janeiro, but also as a homosexual male and human rights
activist, I am presenting to the National Congress of Brazil a proposal for a constitutional
amendment that will guarantee civil marriage equality rights to all people,
regardless of their sexual orientation. What this means is equal rights with
equal names, because, as our Federal Constitution states: all people are equal
by law and should not be victims of discrimination (arts. 3 e 5).
These principles not only
are part of our Constitution, but are also law to all countries that have
signed The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), established in the
articles 1 and 7. The principle of equality and the right to not suffer
discrimination are also recognized in the American Declaration of the Rights
and Duties of Man (art II), in the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights (arts. 2 and 26), the American Convention on Human Rights,
also known as the Pact of San José (art. 1), and the International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (art. 2), among other international rights
This should be enough to
end the discussion on marriage equality, but, as George Orwell in his
consecrated Animal Farm put it: “All
animals are equal, but some animals are more equal
than others.”. It is still not much different with human beings.
History recalls many
examples of similar social struggles. “Women voting? Women head of state?”
pondered Carlos Drummond de Andrade, one of our country’s most influential
writers, in his poem to Mietta Santiago, a Brazilian lawyer, writer and
feminist who became the first woman to gain the right to vote in 1928. The
first question was answered in 1932 with the promulgation of the Electoral
Code, which guaranteed women the right to ballots. The second answer would
linger for another 100 years until, for the first time in our history, in 2010,
Brazil elected a woman president.
What we see here is a
form of discrimination similar to when women weren’t allowed to elect their
representatives, to the prohibition of interracial marriage, to the segregation
of whites and blacks, and to the persecution of Jews.
In the same way that
nowadays there is no “female vote” or “interracial marriage,” there will come a
day when there will be no “same-sex marriage” because the distinction will be
just as irrelevant and the prejudice that justified the semantic opposition
will have been overcome.
It’s a fact that in
countries where marriage equality came sooner, the memory of a time when same-sex
marriage was prohibited is continuously stranger as days pass, becoming more
and more unintelligible to the newer generations. Laws also have an impact on
the education of a population and in the construction of a culture of peace and
of a society that respects and embraces differences.
I believe that my
constitutional amendment is the most incisive reply that the Legislative Power
can present to the decision of our Supreme Court, which only last year
determined that same-sex couples should have access to all civil rights
guaranteed by the Federal Constitution to common-law marriages. One of these
rights, as we know, is the right to civil marriage, as stated in art. 226 § 2.
A beautiful and bold
campaign defending civil marriage equality in Brazil - jump-started by my
mandate and embraced by society - is already on course with the participation of artists, intellectuals and
opinion leaders that I admire profoundly such as Caetano Veloso, Chico
Buarque, Marisa Monte, Carlinhos Brown, Bebel Gilberto, Sonia Braga and many
others. The official launch took place Thursday in Rio de Janeiro, and a
website with information on civil marriage equality around the globe, as well
as statements in video, is already operating at http://www.casamentociviligualitario.br.
The Brazilian Legislative
Power cannot continue its omissive stance to what is the life and dignity of a
segment that represents more than 18 million of its population.
Wake up, Brazil! Our time
JEAN WYLLYS is a journalist,
writer, and university professor. He is the first openly gay politician to
defend the cause of LGBT people in the Brazilian Parliament. Elected Federal
Deputy for the state of Rio de Janeiro in 2010, he is a member of The Socialism
and Freedom Party (Partido Socialismo e Liberdade, P-SOL) and coordinates the
Parliamentary Front for LGBT Citizenship in the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies.