Earlier this week, a judge in the Brazilian state of São Paulo has ruled that gay couples in civil unions will no longer have to apply to the courts to have their relationships ‘upgraded’ to marriages.

The judgement will effectively mean that same-sex marriage is now legal in the state.

Judge Fernando Henrique Pinto said the judgement is “intended to enable the recognition and registration of the unions of persons of the same sex without legal provocation.” He added that the judgement “honours human the dignity of a portion of society.”

Up until now, Brazil required all couples in same-sex civil unions to personally apply to a state court in order to have their relationship recognised as a marriage.

The judge ruled that gay couples not already in civil unions will be entitled to simply hold a marriage ceremony on request, rather than having to first enter into a civil union and then “upgrade”. Some commentators have suggested that gay couples from around the country will flock to São Paulo to get married.

The same judge made legal history last year when he ruled that two men could convert their civil union into a full marriage.

The Supreme Court ruled that gay couples could have civil unionsbut stopped short of granting same-sex couples the right to marry.

In May 2012, a 16-year-old bill to make same-sex unions legal was finally passed into law.

The court ruling this week will mean that foreigners who wish to marry their same sex partner will be entitled to a marriage visa, which is much easier to obtain than the existing civil union visas offered by the federal government.