National News

Brazil court makes homophobia a crime

A majority in Brazil's Supreme Court has voted to make homophobia and transphobia crimes like racism, a decision coming amid fears the country's far-right president will roll back LGBT gains.

Six of the Supreme Federal Tribunal's 11 judges have voted in favour of the measure. The other five judges will vote in a June court session but the result will not be modified and will take effect after all the vote.

Racism was made a crime in Brazil in 1989, with prison sentences of up to five years. The court's judges ruled homophobia should be framed within the racism law until congress approves legislation dealing with LGBT discrimination.

Brazil's Senate is dealing with a bill to criminalise discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender, with sentences of up to five years.

"Racism is a crime against flesh and blood, whether it is a member of the LGBT community, a Jew or an Afro-descendant," justice Luiz Fux said Thursday.

The court's judges said the ruling was to address an omission that had left the LGBT community legally unprotected.

While same-sex marriage is legal in Brazil, it is still a dangerous country for members of the LGBT community and has a large evangelical movement often critical of gay rights. According to rights group Grupo Gay da Bahia, 420 LGBT people were killed across Brazil in 2018 and at least 141 so far this year.

President Jair Bolsonaro, a former army captain who assumed office on January 1, has a history of offensive comments about gays, blacks and other minorities, openly acknowledging he is a homophobe.

He has said he would rather have a dead son than a gay son.

The ruling "comes at a very good moment, when we have a head of state who is LGBT-phobic," Bruna Benevides, president of the Niteroi Diversity group, said.

© AP 2019