Brazil's Supreme Court Thursday hinted it would rule against discrimination based on sexuality or gender and that Congress had acted unconstitutionally by failing to include homophobia and transphobia within its anti-discrimination statutes, it was reported.
With a formal ruling yet to be made, the judicial expected outcome would deal a severe blow to President Jair Bolsonaro's historic anti-LGBTQ stance.
The Supreme Federal Court is to decide on two cases brought by an LGBTQ rights group and the Popular Socialist Party in 2012 and 2013, arguing that Congress was dragging its feet on criminalizing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The court considered the cases over four days in February, when four justices — short of a majority — said such behavior should be criminalized.
But when deliberation resumed Thursday, two more justices concurred, thus creating a majority, which would outnumber whatever the other five justices vote on June 5.
On Wednesday, the Senate’s Commission on Constitution Justice and Citizenship also voted in favor of a bill to criminalize homophobia and transphobia. It asked the high court to suspend its decision while the bill makes its way through the lower house, but the court voted 9 to 2 to continue.
The first justice to announce his decision in February, Celso de Mello, criticized the “inertia” of Congress in allowing these types of offenses to go unpunished and spoke at length about the need to uphold the rights of LGBTQ people.
“There is nothing more illegitimate than drafting a constitution without the will to fully carry it out and to only apply the points that are convenient for majority groups,” he said.
The Brazilian Association of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transvestites and Transsexuals and the Popular Socialist Party say the rate of violence against members of the LGBTQ community makes the situation urgent and the criminalization of hate crimes targeting LGBTQ people requires swifter action.
Despite hosting the world’s largest gay pride parade and legalizing same-sex marriage in 2013, Brazil continues to be a dangerous place to identify as LGBTQ. Just last year, 320 people were the victims of homophobic or transphobic homicides, according to watchdog group Grupo Gay de Bahia.
Paulo Roberto Iotti Vecchiatti, the attorney representing both plaintiffs in the joint legal actions, said attacks on LGBTQ people should be considered a form of racism, which Brazil’s constitution defines as any “discrimination against fundamental rights and freedoms.” He cited a 2003 Supreme Federal Court decision declaring anti-Semitism to be a form of racism, as is “any ideology that preaches the superiority/inferiority of one group over another.”
Members of the country’s evangelical Christian lobby, who are opposed to the proposed changes in legislation, argue that their religious rights would be violated if they could no longer preach against homosexuality.