Gay rights become point of negativity in Brazil election
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Gay rights become point of negativity in Brazil election

As a whole, Brazil’s presidential candidates are negative about gay marriage, but they do disagree on criminalizing homophobia.

Thanks to radical religious leaders, Brazil presidential hopefuls are being pushed to the right when it comes to gay rights. Incumbent Dilma Rousseff and her adversaries Marina Silva and Aécio Neves have stated that they will do no more than keeping civil partnerships, which was decided by the Supreme Court back in 2011. That means marriages and all the benefits that come with them will not be allowed for homosexual couples.

See also: Same-sex couples can now register civil unions in Uruguay

The first controversial move affecting the gay rights platform was made by Silva, an evangelical who, until recently, belonged in the Catholic church. A few weeks ago, she released a very progressive LGBT program promising to support gay marriage. It took her less than 12 hours to reconsider, since prominent evangelical leader Silas Malafaia threatened to withdraw his endorsement. Since then, Silva has been seen as a flip-flopper by Brazil’s gay community.

Although President Rousseff’s position on marriage equality is not any different, she criticized Silva for taking hers back. The incumbent, though, has promised to fight homophobia just eight months after dismissing an anti-homophobia bill.

Many religious leaders believe gays and lesbians are sinners and could be “cured” if they agree to undergo treatment. Brazil has seen many cases of violence directed against sexual and gender minorities in recent years.

Neves’ platform is more moderate than that of Pastor Everaldo, a preacher who has just 2 percent in the polls but is very vocal about smaller government and firmly against gay rights. Neves wants to keep civil partnerships as they are and, unlike Rousseff, isn’t for criminalizing homophobia. He lagging behind in the polls, though, almost 20 points behind Silva at the moment.

Brazil’s most vocal gay rights leader, Congressman Jean Wyllys, has criticized all three main contenders. But he clearly is more upset with Silva. “She lied to all of us. She played with the hopes of millions of gays and she doesn’t deserve to be trusted,” he said.

Brazil is the nation with the most Catholics on Earth — about 70 percent of its 200 million inhabitants. Evangelicals, who represent 22 percent of Brazil’s population, are mostly behind Silva’s campaign. That’s why presidential hopefuls with a decent shot are always religious (or say they are). In the key battleground state of São Paulo, which has 22 percent of Brazil’s electorate, Silva has a 16 point lead over the president, according to an Ibope poll.

In the 2010 campaign, religion also played a massive role in the elections. Rousseff had to deny being an atheist. She said fighting cancer brought her closer to God. She visited religious leaders and forged alliances with many of them. Her adversary at the occasion, José Serra, brought abortion to the debate, which stimulated many priests and pastors into attacking the former Marxist guerrilla’s credentials.

Rousseff still won. This time, the race is much tighter — and so far, gay rights are a political casualty.