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Brazil Supreme Court criminalizes homophobia

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Brazil’s Supreme Court voted Thursday to criminalize homophobia, an important step for sexual minorities in one of the most dangerous countries for LGBT people in the world.

The Supreme Federal Court (STF), which voted eight to three in favor of the measure, classified homophobia as a crime similar to racism, until Congress — which is held by a conservative majority and is strongly influenced by evangelical churches — passes a law specifically addressing such discrimination.

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Brazil now joins a growing number of countries in the typically conservative and Catholic-influenced Latin American region that have passed measures in favor of LGBT rights.

“All prejudice is violence. All discrimination is a cause of suffering,” said judge Carmen Luzia while voting in favor of the measure.

“But I learned that some prejudices cause more suffering than others.”

According to the NGO Grupo Gay de Bahia, which has collected national statistics for the past four decades, there were 387 murders and 58 suicides over “homotransphobia” in 2017, a 30 percent increase from 2016.

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This works out to one LGBT death by suicide or murder every 19 hours in Brazil.

The country’s highest court considered it neglect of legislative power not to have outlawed such discrimination until now.

But the three judges that voted against the measure insisted that criminalizing homophobia was Congress’s job, not the court’s.

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“Only Congress can approve (the definition of) crimes and penalties; only Congress can pass laws on criminal conduct,” said judge Ricardo Lewandowski.

Acts of racism, and now acts of “homotransphobia,” in Brazil face one to three years in prison or a fine.

– Religious liberty –

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The STF’s decision has caused tension within Congress, with some legislators feeling stripped of their powers.

With a large group defending their interest in Congress, the Pentecostal churches — whose following has grown exponentially in Brazil, the country with the most Catholics in the world — are expected to try to slow down initiatives such as that passed by the STF.

Criminalizing homophobia could restrict church leaders, many of whom fear being penalized for rejecting same-sex unions by invoking religious texts.

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But in the STF’s verdict, the court explicitly stated that criminalizing “homotransphobia” will not restrict religious freedom, so long as the churches do not promote “hate speech” that incites discrimination, hostility or violence against people due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Thursday’s decision is the latest in a a wave of pro-LGBT rights decisions in Latin America.

Brazil had already legalized same-sex marriage, along with Argentina, Colombia and Uruguay. They were joined most recently by Ecuador, whose highest court on Wednesday approved same-sex marriage in a landmark ruling for the country.

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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Trump aides desperately try to downplay ‘order’ to US companies to leave China

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Donald Trump's top aides on Sunday downplayed the idea of US companies being forced to abandon China any time soon, as an edict from the president ordering businesses to start looking for alternatives has been met with skepticism.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House economics advisor Larry Kudlow took to the airwaves from France, where Trump is participating in the G7 summit, to smooth out tensions in the business community prompted by Trump's Friday tweet.

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Sudan's Christians suffered decades of persecution under the regime of Islamist general Omar al-Bashir. Now they hope his downfall will give the religious freedom they have long prayed for.

Deep within the maze of dusty alleys that honeycomb Omdurman, Khartoum's sprawling twin city, Yousef Zamgila's church is not visible from the street.

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