A recent ruling in Brazil is once again bringing the political theater of definition of marriage to the forefront – and conservatives in the South American nation are up in arms. BBC News reports that a notary in Sao Paulo has accepted a civil union between three people – two women and one man. According to Public Notary Claudia do Nascimento Domingues, the trio has lived together long enough to warrant family rights, and Brazilian law has nothing that forbids such an arrangement.
Civil union and not a marriage, but…
Marriage and civil union are different from the standpoint of the law, but for the sake of human beings over doctrine, they don’t have to be different at all. Here’s how the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines marriage:
“(1) The state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2) : the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage.”
Notice how the rise of gay marriage has made (2) necessary. Language is a product of evolution, as is the human species. If language were to suddenly no longer able to accurately recount what is in our hearts, the pleasure of existence would be lessened beyond measure.
The pleasure of existence for some religious groups appears to require open hostility toward this Brazilian civil union, however. I suppose it is no coincidence that such terms as “war on women” and “war on family” only exist because religious groups believe that a battle must be fought over their mere opinion of how life should be lived. One angry Brazilian lawyer named Regina Beatriz Tavares da Silva claimed the civil union is “absurd and totally illegal,” and some of the more militant right-wing religious fundamentalists have followed suit.
What does the lucky trio have to say?
The “Brazilian Three” have lived together for three years in Rio de Janeiro, according to local media. They’ve shared bills and expenses, and have a joint bank account as permitted by Brazilian law. So clearly, there are economic advantages to the three-pronged union. More importantly, they love each other, according to Domingues. And they have no interest in making their union a sideshow, as evident in their avoidance of the press.
Protecting the rights of the civil union
Jurist Nathaniel Santos Batista Junior told Sao Paulo’s Globo television news that he helped draft the three-person civil union document not as a political statement, but simply in order to protect the rights of the trio in the event of death or separation. Domingues did not deny the import of this civil union, however, calling it a new wrinkle in the definition of “family.”
“We are only recognizing what has always existed. We are not inventing anything,” she said. “For better or worse, it doesn’t matter, but what we considered a family before isn’t necessarily what we would consider a family today.”
While the civil union has been approved by a notary public, it remains to be seen whether the Brazilian courts, service providers and insurance providers will recognize the civil union.
How President Obama defines marriage