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Brazil Senate committee OKs gay civil unions

A measure allowing same-sex civil unions passed its first legislative step in Brazil's Congress, where it has lingered for 16 years.

The human rights committee in Brazil's Senate approved a measure Thursday that would change law to say a civil union is between two people, without specifying gender. It doesn't approve gay marriage.

However, Brazil's judiciary has already cleared the way for gay marriage in the nation, setting national precedent.

Last year, the top court approved civil unions for same-sex couples. State courts have since allowed those unions to become full-fledged marriages.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Marta Suplicy, who says legislators need to put into the penal code what courts are already allowing.

The bill must pass other Senate committees before going to a full vote.