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Gay Marriage and Immigration in South America
Owing to a history of colonization by countries like Spain and Portugal, the influence of the Roman Catholic Church has been quite strong in many regions of South America. However with the rise of personal and sexual freedom, many South American countries have woken up to the legal rights of gay couples, including that of immigration.
The most recent country to legalize same-sex marriages has been Argentina, also the first country in South America to do so. The law grants for same-sex couples all the rights and responsibilities of marriage, including the right to adopt children. The first same-sex marriage to be performed under the law was on July 30, 2010. Argentina saw considerable opposition to the law legalizing same sex marriage from the Catholic Church, which is religion of the majority of the population.
Despite gay couples in Argentina being allowed all the benefits of heterosexual couples, immigration of foreign gay partners into Argentina is still subject to complex rules. Within the text of the new law it states that same-sex “residents” of Argentina may marry and this is where the new law has led to some confusion. There are two ways to qualify for residency in Argentina. The first is to apply to the Immigration Department for permanent residency which is a lengthy, complicated process and, if one qualifies, usually takes up to six months. Secondly one can obtain a domicile-certificate from the local police department upon the payment of certain fees and takes about forty hours to complete. But only the official residency from the Immigration Department is currently acceptable for marriage in Argentina.
Despite time-taking immigration procedures, at least same-sex marriages in Argentina being treated in the same manner as heterosexual couples when it comes to the application process for a wedding license. The paperwork for any marriage license in Argentina can take about two weeks to process and in the cases involving foreigners several documents have to be officially translated into Spanish and notarized. A blood test is also required and must be conducted at a recognized clinic in Argentina. Approximately one week after the wedding ceremony a marriage certificate is issued. This means that whether gay or heterosexual, marriages with a foreign partner is a time-consuming legal affair in Argentina.
Unlike Argentina, Brazil has not yet legalized same-sex marriages, but here the LGBT community enjoys almost all rights as the rest of the society, ranging from legality of sexual practices to being protected against discrimination on the basis of sexuality. This also extends to immigration policies for gay partners. Brazil’s immigration policy organ, the National Council on Immigration, decided on December 12, 2003, to recognize same-sex unions entered into abroad, as a means of granting immigration status to foreign partners from countries, states or cities that offer recognition to same-sex couples. The policy enables bi-national couples who are able to obtain contracts, such as marriage, civil unions or domestic partnerships, to use them as proof of a relationship. It also recognizes city and county registries, such as those offered by San Francisco and Buenos Aires, Argentina for the legalization of same-sex relationships. Gay couples in Brazil are then able to use the procedures associated with sponsoring a spouse for immigration, that is available to heterosexual partners under the laws of the country.