In a landmark decision on Thursday, Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled to classify discrimination and hateful acts against LGBTQ people as crimes under the country’s current anti-racism laws. Eight of 11 justices voted in favor of the ruling.
The current anti-racism laws hold a prison sentences of up to five years and the court’s justices have stated that the new addition was to address that fact that the LGBTQ community was left legally unprotected against the growing number of violent crimes against them.
This victory for Brazil’s LGBTQ community comes despite an increasingly difficult climate under the far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who has opening spoken out against the LGBTQ community in the past.
The ruling was made after the court decided that the country’s Congress had failed its constitutional duty to pass any similar legislation. Under Brazil’s constitution, the court is allowed to impose decisions such as this in the event of lack of action by lawmakers.
In announcing her vote, Justice Carmen Lucia stated that the court can’t deny protection “to those who have at times been denied the right to life, and most often to the right to liberty and dignity, by the absence of legislation” even 30 years after the current constitution was adopted.
In a another statement on the court’s Twitter, Justice Gilmar Mendes said, “sexual orientation and gender identity are essential to human beings, to the self-determination to decide their own life and seek happiness.
While this is a huge step, Brazil is still a dangerous country for members of the LGBTQ community and has a large evangelical movement often critical of LGBTQ rights. The Grupo Gay da Bahia, the country’s oldest association for the defense of the human rights of homosexuals, says that about 420 LGBTQ people were killed across Brazil in 2018, and this year the number is already to 141 people so far.
The courts decision has been publicly criticized by President Bolsonaro and his supporters, who have suggested it was time to appoint an evangelical Christian to the Supreme court. There has been a history from Bolsonaro of offensive comments about LGBTQ people, black people, and other minorities. In addition he openly acknowledges he is a homophobe. He has said he would rather have a dead son than a gay son in interviews with the media.
Though activists still fight an uphill battle with the current administration, this is still a major step in the right direction for equality among all.