Argentina: Civil Union Proposals Passed in Rio Negro Province and Buenos Aires City

SUMMARY

On Friday, December 13, 2002, the Buenos Aires City Legislature passed a civil unions proposal. The bill creates a Civil Union Register--open to couples without gender restrictions--and grants registered couples the same rights that the city grants to spouses and family members. On Tuesday, December 17, 2002 the Rio Negro Province Legislature passed a law that grants same sex couples the same rights enjoyed at state levels by de-facto unions, except the possibility to marry and adopt children.

ACTION

Please send letters of congratulation or inquiries for further information regarding the Rio Negro bill to its author, Member of Parliament Regina Kluz, at:

MP Regina Kluz
Legislatura de la Provincia de Rio Negro (Rio Negro State Legislature)
San Martin 118
Viedma, Rio Negro
Argentina
Telephone/Fax: +54 2920 421 866 (to send a fax, please say "por favor, quisiera enviar un fax" to the person who answers)
E-mail: kulzbarn@uol.com.ar

Please send letters of congratulation or inquiries for further information about the Buenos Aires bill to its authors, Judge Graciela Medina and CHA
(Comunidad Homosexual Argentina), at:

Comunidad Homosexual Argentina
Tomás Liberti 1080 (1165)
Ciudad de Buenos Aires
Argentina
Telephone/Fax: +54 11 4361 6382
Email: informacion@cha.org.ar

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

RIO NEGRO PROVINCE

Unlike the Buenos Aires city ordinance (see below), civil unions in Rio Negro will not be registered separately from (straight) de-facto unions. Both will be registered at the same offices. In order to register its union, a couple (straight or homosexual) must be 18 or
older and present two witnesses who can prove that they have resided together for at least two years. Registered couples can access state housing plans and enjoy social benefits and sick or bereavement leave if they are state employees, and have visitation rights in public hospitals.

The proposal was submitted in June 2001 and passed in general terms on December 18. The State Legislature will meet soon to discuss some details about the project.

Both ruling and opposition parties declared themselves in support of the proposal before its debate in the State Legislature; the Catholic Church in the province did not voice a negative opinion. Rio Negro has very advanced legislation that is unique to Argentina in areas such as mental health (patients are not hospitalized but cared for by the communities in which they live) and reproductive health (public hospitals provide free contraception and sterilization procedures upon request, both for women and men).

BUENOS AIRES CITY

In order to enter into a Civil Union, both parties must be 21 or older, with legal addresses in Buenos Aires City for at least a year; if they have no children, they must prove that they have lived together for at least two years (by presenting two to five witnesses).

Benefits include social security, relocation for family reasons, sick and bereavement leave for city state employees, and access to pensions, housing loans and other benefits granted by the city government.

Those entering a civil union may draft contracts to regulate how their assets are to be divided in case the union is dissolved, as well as other aspects of their personal and financial relationship.

Civil unions are dissolved by mutual agreement, by the will of one of the members, or if one of them gets married or dies.

The Register has the capacity to issue a certificate proving that a civil union has been formed and the same in the case of its dissolution.

The proposal was introduced in August 2001 and studied by four of the Legislative Commissions - Budget, Constitutional Affairs, General Legislation and Human Rights.

It is estimated that the law will enter into force on April 2003, even though activists predict that proposals declaring it unconstitutional will be submitted in February (the Legislature is closed during January). Unlike the case of Rio Negro, opposition by
the local Catholic Church was fierce in Buenos Aires.

INTERNATIONAL LAW

According to our files (updated in November 2002), the following cities, states and countries around the world protect the rights of same-sex couples:

In Brazil, the cities of Pernambuco (Recife), Rio de Janeiro (Rio de Janeiro), Pelotas (Rio Grande do Sul) passed ordinances in 2001 granting equality for same-sex partners of state employees. The same was done by Sao Paulo (Sao Paulo) in 2002. Civil Union proposals at the Federal level are under debate in Colombia and Brazil, and at the city level in Mexico City.

In Europe, the Netherlands is the only country in the world where same-sex couples have access to marriage, on equal terms with straight couples. Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland grant to registered unions all conjugal rights, except adoption, access to reproductive technologies and church weddings. Denmark, Iceland and Norway also allow adoption of the partner's children. The United Kingdom allows its citizen to sponsor their same-sex partners for immigration purposes and it also allows same-sex couples to jointly adopt children. In Spain, Catalonia, Aragón, Navarra and Valencia grant all conjugal rights except adoption to same-sex couples.

Australia has no federal protection for same sex couples, but its Migration Program allows Australian citizens, Australian permanent residents and eligible New Zealand citizens to sponsor their same-sex partner to remain in or migrate to Australia on the basis of their relationship. Several Australian provinces have domestic partnership laws (Capital Territory, New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria). New Zealand allows single women and lesbian couples access to state-funded reproductive technologies.

Canada also has no federal protection, but several of its provinces recognize same sex unions (British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Yukon Territory). Joint adoption by same-sex couples is allowed in the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec

South Africa grants same-sex couples social and employment benefits and immigration rights.

In the USA, domestic partners (of the same sex) are recognized for some benefits in California, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine and Vermont. Same-sex couples can jointly adopt in California, and those in registered unions may adopt their partner's children in Vermont.