Three Person Couple in Brazil Enters Into Civil Union Sparking Controversy

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: Here's a story about a civil union in Brazil that sparked controversy there. It's not the concept of civil union that's causing a stir. It's the fact that this civil union involves three people, a man and two women. The three have been living together for three years and have a joint bank account, and that entitles them to certain family benefits, according to the notary in Sao Paulo state who approved the civil union designation in this case. The move has been denounced by religious groups and others. The three people in the case are not speaking to reporters. But the BBC's Jefferson Puff has been reporting on the story. Jefferson, is it known why these three people want a civil union in the first place?

Jefferson Puff: They've been living together for three years, but they wanted to have certain rights assured, for instance, in case of death. So they've been trying to make this union in a certain way recognized by the state.

Werman: And is it legal, I mean could courts in Brazil ultimately appeal this and quash the decision by the notary?

Puff: As a matter of fact, Brazil has been under another controversy which has just ended last year, which was the same sex civil unions between two men or two women. So the legal definition of a family in Brazil as of this day is of a couple, a man and a woman, two men or two women. A three-person civil union is not legal as of now. However, the notary public who has approved this seems to think that the Supreme Court will tend to have a similar ruling as they did with the same sex civil union.

Werman: So what's been the range of criticism from the public? As we said, religious groups have been really angered by this.

Puff: Yeah, the case has sparked controversy within the country. Religious groups tend to think that this has distorted values and morals. The interesting thing is that pressure groups, as lawyers also and their organizations, tend to have a conservative point of view on this. They tend to think that courts will overrule this immediately.

Werman: Could this whole thing just be less political in reality than it is just a practical solution to living in Brazil today?

Puff: You mean as a living arrangement between three people?

Werman: Yeah, right.

Puff: Some people who have looked at this in a more analytical way tend to think that once this controversy is over it could be more of a practical solution, as you said, in terms of legal practicalities, or assets, you know, if they buy a car together, or if they have a house together, or if one of the three people leaves this relationship, then if they have debts together, for instance.

Werman: What are the legal benefits of three people entering into a civil union together?

Puff: Well, as of now in Brazil in the law, some of the benefits of civil unions would be to be included in health insurance, for instance. If one of those three people has a job, and they are entitled to a health care plan, then they could include the other ones as dependents. Or, let's say, if they have life insurance, then the other ones would have the money once this person dies. Benefits like that. And also in the eyes of the law, they will have benefits, for instance, social security benefits. And this is what critics are really saying that it is outrageous, in a way, that once they try to have these benefits, for instance if they are denied they will have to go to court and appeal, so they tend to think that it will be overruled.

Werman: It's certainly an unusual situation. The BBC's Jefferson Puff speaking with us from Sao Paulo. Thank you

Puff: Thank you.