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Brazil: Congressional committee approves gay-cure therapy bill

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — A measure approved by a congressional human rights commission in Brazil June 18 would remove a 1999 ban on treating homosexuality, Pink News reports.

The bill will be subject to debate in other committees before it heads to the full chamber and Senate for a vote. 

According to the report, the congressional commission is headed by Social Christian Party member Marco Feliciano, whose appointment to the body was strenuously opposed by human rights groups

Queer rights and anti-racism advocates had taken to the streets of major Brazilian cities to express their opposition to Feliciano’s election as chair of the legislature’s human rights committee. In São Paulo, more than 500 people marched, shouting for Feliciano to be ousted from the position. Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia (the capital), Florianópolis, Porto Alegre, Maceió, Vitória, Fortaleza and Salvador also saw protesters take to the streets.

Feliciano has thousands of supporters on both Twitter and Facebook. One sympathizer on Twitter wrote that the congressman is “making a difference” and that “God’s people” stand by him.

Not all of the evangelical community supports him. According to Global Voices, Rede Fale, a network representing 39 religious groups, has objected to his election and is spearheading a petition to have him removed from office.

Prior to Tuesday’s vote, Huberto Verona, a member of the psychologists’ council, said scientific disciplines “recognize that sexual orientation is not a pathology that should be treated; it is not a perversion nor a disorder nor a behavioral disturbance.” Verona added that “we cannot offer a cure, and that is an ethical principle.”

But legislator Joao Campos, described as a member of the lower house’s evangelical block, supported the measure, contending it would permit “a person over 18 years of age, responsible for his actions, who is homosexual and wants to reorient his sexuality, can be attended by a psychologist.” 

The progress of the measure comes on the heels of a recent protest by about 100,000 evangelical Christians who went on a March for Jesus in Rio de Janeiro to object to a recent judicial ruling that essentially green-lights gay marriage nationwide.

A May 14 ruling by the National Council of Justice (NCJ), which oversees Brazil’s legal system, said that government offices issuing marriage licences have no standing to reject gay couples, Agence France-Presse reported then.  

Supreme Court Chief Justice Joaquim Barbosa noted that the Supreme Court recognized stable homosexual unions in 2011 and found that the constitution granted them the same rights as heterosexual couples.

"Are we going to require the approval of a new law by Congress to put into effect the ruling that already has been made by the Supreme Court? That would make no sense,” Barbosa is quoted as saying. The earlier Supreme Court decision “is binding,” he added.

Brazil’s Social Christian Party has reportedly filed a legal challenge to the NCJ’s ruling.