Brazil's High Court Rules Anti-Discrimination Laws Must Include LGBTQ People

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President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil (image via Flickr/Agência Brasil Fotografias - CC License)

Brazil’s highest court has found the exclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity from the country’s anti-discrimination laws to be unconstitutional.

Six judges on the 11-member Supreme Federal Court voted in favor of the ruling Thursday. While the other five members have not yet voted on the issue, the majority secured the court’s decision. A ruling will be issued once the remaining judges register their votes on June 5.

The ruling comes as attacks on LGBTQ people have seen a sharp increase since the election of virulently anti-gay President Jair Bolsonaro.

During the presidential election last year, Bolsonaro campaigned on a platform that was proudly homophobic. At the same time, reports of crimes against LGBTQs tripled.

Bolsonaro, whose record as a lawmaker includes a long history of anti-LGBTQ votes, promised to erase pro-LGBTQ and pro-women movements during the campaign.

He has famously declared he would prefer to have a dead son than a gay son.

And the new president has also downplayed “gay tourism” in his country.

“If you want to come here and have sex with a woman, go for your life,” he told Crusoe Magazine in April. He added that Brazil “cannot be a country for gay tourism because we have families here.”

Although same-sex marriage was legalized in 2013, local news site Rio On Watch reports Brazil is the “LGBT murder capital” of the world. In 2016, 331 LGBTQ murders were recorded which equaled one LGBT-related killing every 25 hours.

The Rio Times reports that in 2018 that Brazil had the highest number of transgender people murdered in the world.

Since 2001, anti-LGBTQ discrimination bills have been proposed in the country’s Congress, but have never been brought to a vote by lawmakers.

Brazil’s Senate is currently debating legislation would punish hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity with a five year prison sentence, but a carve-out for religious beliefs is being considered for the slow-moving bill.

The inability of lawmakers to take meaningful action on the issue was, in part, what prompted Judge Luiz Fox to cast the sixth and deciding vote on Thursday.

“Parliament doesn’t act,” said Fox during the hearing, according to The Washington Post. “This is no guarantee the bill will pass, and even if it does, it can be vetoed and homophobia will continue. The judiciary must act in defense of minorities against violence by the majority.”

While several states in Brazil have laws in place to protect against LGBTQ discrimination, the new ruling by the Supreme Federal Court will be the first federal law to make LGBTQ discrimination a crime nationwide.
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