Brazil sees its first civil union – between three women

by Gregory Tomlin, |
A scene from the popular telenovela (soap opera), Avenida Brasil, which featured a polygamous wedding between three women. Now, three women in Brazil say they will be campaigning for legal recognition of their marital union. They are planning to have children together. | AVENIDA BRASIL

RIO DE JANEIRO (Christian Examiner) – Three women in Brazil have entered into a polyamorous civil union, a step toward three-way marriage, the American Foreign Press (AFP) has reported.

According to AFP, the women have reportedly "shared a bed for years and say they want to raise a child," but the government in the deeply conservative Catholic country does not recognize marriage among more than two people.

That isn't stopping the women – a dentist, businesswoman and office manager – from pressuring the legal system to recognize their union.

"The union is just symbolic" at this point, the women's attorney, Fernanda de Freitas Leitao, said. At this point, it only demonstrates "how they intend to have children."

Satan is laughing, shaking up family structures while arguing for the human rights of modern women.

Leitao said, however, he believes the three women can push the issue further.

"If they seek these rights before a court, they could obtain them -- and I think they will," Leitao told AFP.

That seems likely. In fact, the waters of social change have already breeched long-standing barriers. In 2011, Brazil introduced civil unions for same-sex couples, and two years later its National Council of Justice issued a ruling that granted same-sex couples the right to marry, making it the 14th country worldwide to allow the practice.

Officials in Sao Paulo state also held a civil union ceremony for a man and two women in 2012, the report from AFP said. That is why the country's Congress is hurriedly attempting to pass a law which defines "family" as a union between a man and a woman along with their children.

A popular telenovela (soap opera) in the country, Avenida Brasil, has already featured a polygamous wedding between three women. According to reports from the country, few found in the cultural mainstream found it objectionable. Still, opposition to the effort to have other marital unions recognized has been strong among traditional Catholics and evangelical faith groups.

"We are on the path towards chaos," said Euder Faber Guedes Ferreira II, head of the major evangelical organization VINACC (National Vision for a Christian Conscience). He said such relationships are an "aberration... opposed to nature as established by God."

Another evangelical leader and lawmaker, Hidekazu Takayama, said in congressional debate in September that "men with men do not produce children."

"Satan is laughing, shaking up family structures while arguing for the human rights of modern women," Takayama also wrote on his Facebook page.

Christian opposition, if history proves true, will likely have little impact on the cultural slide in the country because its population is far less conservative with respect to its sexual ethics than its leadership.

Polygamy is already legal in roughly 25 percent of countries around the globe, with most being within regions dominated by Islam (North Africa, the Middle East and parts of Southeast Asia). Thailand, like Brazil, has seen challenges to monogamous marriage.

Even though that Southeast Asian country does not currently recognize same-sex marriages, three men there entered into a symbolic union in February 2015, elevating the discussion about gay rights in the traditionally conservative country.

The pattern of change appears to be universal. In countries around the world, gay couples have temporarily been placated by the granting of the right to enter a civil union. Marriage rights have followed, followed by calls from a minority to allow multiple marriage. The same is true in the United States.

Shortly after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in Obergefell v. Hodges, a Montana man filed suit in federal district court seeking to have his polygamist marriage legalized. The man in the relationship, Nathan Collier, tried to obtain a marriage license for a second wife after the Supreme Court decision. He had been legally married to one wife since 2000 and "spiritually married" to another since 2007.

That case is now tracking through the federal court system. On Oct. 16, the Montana Attorney General's office filed a motion to dismiss the case, claiming Collier and his "wives" were not challenging the denial of the license for a second marriage, but the constitutionality of the state's criminal bigamy statute.

No one has threatened to prosecute Collier or his wives, so there is no case, the state's attorney general said.

In other European countries, longstanding prohibitions on polygamy are being challenged by waves of Muslim immigration. Islam does not prohibit the practice, but limits the number of wives a man may have to four.