Same-sex unions recognised in Brazil

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Brazil's high court has ruled that same-sex civil unions must be recognised, a decision welcomed by gay activists who also hope it will cool rising violence against homosexuals in Latin America's most populous nation.

But the ruling stopped short of legalising gay marriage in Brazil, which has more Roman Catholics than any other country. The Catholic Church fought the measure.

On Thursday, all but one of the 11 Supreme Court justices backed civil union rights for same-sex couples. The court ruled gay couples deserve the same legal rights as heterosexual pairs when it comes to alimony, retirement benefits of a partner who dies and inheritances, among other issues.

In predominantly Catholic Latin America, gay marriage is legal only in Argentina and Mexico City. Same-sex civil unions granting some rights to homosexual couples are legal in Uruguay and in some states of Mexico. Colombia's Constitutional Court has granted same-sex couples inheritance rights and allowed them to add their partners to health insurance plans.