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 Op-ed: Why I Proposed Marriage Equality in Brazil

 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 Jose (art. 1), and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (art. 2), among other international rights instruments.

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 SS 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

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 has come!

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.

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