web-Brazil_1Australian marriage equality advocates have welcomed news that Brazilian gay couples should be allowed to marry now after a top judicial body ruled that same-sex couples shouldn’t be denied marriage licenses.

AFP reported the National Council of Justice, which oversees the Brazilian judicial system, said on Tuesday that government offices that issued marriage licenses had no standing to reject gay couples.

Raquel Pereira de Castro Araujo, head of the human rights committee of the Brazilian Bar Association, said the ruling was the equivalent of authorising homosexual marriage in Brazil.

Australian Marriage Equality national director Rodney Croome said marriage equality in Brazil highlighted how far behind Australia was on this important reform.

“Marriage equality in Brazil is an important step forward because it is the largest nation in the world to allow same-sex couples to marry and one of the world’s most important developing nations,” he said.

Decisions made by the council can be subject to an appeal before the Supreme Court.

The Brazilian Congress is yet to approve a law legalising gay marriages, despite a strong religious faction opposing same-sex marriage.

The Supreme Court Chief Justice Joaquim Barbosa, who chairs the council as well, said there was no reason for the government’s marriage licensing offices to wait for the congress to pass marriage equality laws.

He noted that the Supreme Court in 2011 recognised stable homosexual unions and ruled that the constitution guaranteed them the same rights as heterosexual couples.

The Supreme Court decision “is binding” and should be followed by the lower courts, he said.

AFP reported some government offices had granted marriage licenses while others had not.

The National Council for Justice decision will be the first to set a national standard.

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