Brazil’s LGBTQ Challenege: Live and Let Live or Discriminate and Hate?


Last week’s vote by the Federal Supreme Court (STF) laid the foundation for landmark legislation which will include protection for sexual minorities in the nation’s anti-discrimination laws. In doing so, the STF threw into stark relief a fundamental tension underlying Brazilian society: a profound ambivalence concerning the rights of its LGBTQ community. Brazil is still a predominantly Catholic country but one also experiencing explosive growth in evangelical Christianity. Both groups constitute powerful conservative social forces ensuring the hegemony of heteronormativity and reinforcing traditional gender roles. At the same time, Brazil contains a vibrant LBGTQ community and has an international reputation (albeit undoubtedly exaggerated) for sexual permissiveness. Same-sex marriage was legalized in 2013, making Brazil the third country in Latin America and the fifteenth in the world to do so. This societal paradox – a nation simultaneously socially conservative yet liberal – is nowhere more clearly encapsulated than in attitudes towards granting legal protection to sexual minorities. While several states have extended legal protection to their LGBT communities, bills have been introduced to Congress (since 2001) calling for nationwide legislation, but none have been brought to a vote. It was this delay – a protracted failure to treat discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or identity as legally equivalent to racism – that a majority of the STF ruled unconstitutional.

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