In a ruling Tuesday, the council, which supervises the Brazilian judiciary, effectively legalized marriage for homosexuals in Brazil, CNN reported. Council President Joaquim Barbosa said notaries do not have the discretion to refuse to "perform a civil wedding or the conversion of a stable civil union into a marriage between persons of the same sex."
In Brazil, the Legislature has refused to legalize same-sex marriage. But a series of court decisions and the lack of laws barring gays from marrying have done the job.
"Our society goes through many changes, and the National Council of Justice cannot be indifferent to them," Barbosa said.
Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay are the only countries in South America where gay marriage is legal. Gays can also marry in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo and in Mexico City.
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