Anxious same-sex couples in Brazil are rushing to get married before the inauguration of right-wing president-elect Jair Bolsonaro, who has described himself as a “proud homophobe”.
Bolsonaro has a long history of homophobic and misogynistic comments, including equating homosexuality to pedophilia and proclaiming he would rather his son die than be gay.
As a result, LGBTIQ Brazilians are fearful of their hard-earned rights being taken away and are rushing to formalise marriages and name and gender changes before Bolsonaro’s inauguration on January 1.
A notary association told local media there had been a 25% increase in same-sex marriages in Brazil so far this year, and a 42% increase in major city São Paulo, compared to 2017. Same-sex marriage has been legal in Brazil since 2013.
Volunteers are mobilising on social media to donate wedding services, and one Brazilian couple, Priscilla Cicconi and Bianca Gama, tied the knot in front of family and friends and several strangers who offered to help.
“Many people were homophobic and kept it inside, but with Bolsonaro in the presidency, now they’re out and empowered,” Cicconi told The Guardian.
Gama added, “He’s just one man, but he’s giving a lot of power to those who want to take rights away from us.”
Another couple, Marcelo Serrano and Wellington Pereti, told EFE they had brought their wedding forward 12 months.
“We’ve lived together for eight years, but we never made it official,” Wellington said.
“We own a house, a car and a bank account together, and we can lose everything we’ve earned over these eight years.”
Some couples and organizations are also planning group weddings, with one LGBTIQ shelter in São Paulo fundraising to throw a party for 100 same-sex couples this month.
The same shelter also fundraised to assist more than 100 transgender people rushing to legally change their names and affirm their gender before Bolsonaro takes office.
Repeal of marriage equality would be difficult
Bolsonaro’s vice-president, Hamilton Mourão, previously said he believes marriage is only between a man and a woman but the incoming government does not intend to change the status of same-sex marriages, The Guardian reported.
Legal experts have said an outright ban on same-sex marriage would be difficult to introduce, given the country’s top court unanimously ruled to recognize same-sex marriages in 2011.
But Brazilian LGBTIQ advocates have warned that anti-LGBTIQ rhetoric could escalate homophobic violence in the country.
In January, a watchdog in the country reported that violent deaths of LGBTIQ people in Brazil are at an all-time high, increasing an estimated 30 per cent since 2016 and tripling since 2007.
Messages of support for the Brazilian LGBTIQ community flooded social media after Bolsonaro’s election in late October, using phrases like “Eu resisto” (“I resist”), “Ninguém solta a mao de ninguém” and “No nos soltaremos las manos” (“We will not let go of each other’s hands”).
At the time, human rights group Amnesty International vowed to fight for minorities and warned Bolsonaro’s “toxic speech” must not become government policy.
“The president-elect has campaigned with an openly anti-human-rights agenda and frequently made discriminatory statements about different groups of society,” Amnesty’s Americas director Erika Guevara-Rosas said.
“His election as Brazil´s president could pose a huge risk to Indigenous Peoples and quilombolas, traditional rural communities, LGBTI people, black youth, women, activists and civil society organizations, if his rhetoric is transformed in public policy.
“Amnesty International will stand alongside social movements, NGOs, activists and all those who defend human rights to ensure that Brazil’s future brings more rights and less repression.”
(Photo by Agência Brasil Fotografias/Flickr)