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Brazil: Alimony Now Permitted for Gay Couples

(Mar. 9, 2015) On March 3, 2015, the Brazilian Superior Tribunal of Justice (Superior Tribunal de Justiça, STJ) unanimously granted to one of the partners of a gay union the right to request alimony in a case involving a separation. (STJ Garante a Gays Direito de Pedir Pensão Alimentícia, VEJA (Mar. 4, 2015).)

The case came under the review of the highest court of Brazil for non-constitutional matters (see below) after a trial court in the State of São Paulo denied a request for alimony made by one of the partners of the union, which had ended after having lasted for 15 years. On appeal, the Justice Tribunal of the state refused to hear the plaintiff’s claim, arguing that gay unions could not be considered stable unions and that gay couples did not have the same rights as heterosexual couples. (Id.)

The plaintiff then appealed to the STJ, which accepted the case based on previous decisions issued by the Federal Supreme Court (Supremo Tribunal Federal, STF): a 2011 ruling that recognized homosexual unions and an earlier decision that had granted to one of the partners of a gay union the right to part of an inheritance left by his partner. (Id.) This new STJ decision grants to members of a gay union the right to ask the courts for alimony and is valid for the whole country. (Id.)

Superior Tribunal of Justice

Created by the Constitution of 1988 (Constituição da República Federativa do Brasil de 1988, art. 92(II), (Oct. 5, 1988, as amended), PLANALTO), the STJ is responsible for standardizing the interpretation of federal law in Brazil, based on constitutional principles and the guarantee and defense of the rule of law. (Atribuições, Superior Tribunal de Justiça website (last visited March 6, 2015).) The STJ is the court of last instance in the Brazilian legal system for consideration of issues not directly related to interpretation of the Constitution. (Id.)

Federal Supreme Court

According to the Constitution, the STF is the highest court in Brazil entrusted with the responsibility of safeguarding the Constitution (Constitution, art. 102) and of functioning as a court of final review of constitutional issues. (Id. arts. 102(II), 102(III).)