Brazilian lawmakers caved into grassroots pressure and abandoned a bill that would have legally acknowledged ex-gay therapy as a viable medical treatment.
Lawmaker Joao Campos has asked to withdraw his ex-gay therapy bill before it could go to a vote before Brazil’s full lower legislative chamber, the Chamber of Deputies.
The bill would have have served to undermine a 1999 ban issued by Brazil’s Federal Psychology Council that prohibits medical professionals from treating homosexuality as a disorder or disease.
Campos’ legislation would have provided room for psychiatrists who to begin treating homosexuality as if it can be cured.
He asked the bill to be withdrawn on Tuesday, July 2, after it became apparent that, in part due to concerted grassroots lobbying, a majority of lawmakers in the Chamber of Deputies would vote against the legislation.
He has previously explained his support for the bill by saying, “In practice, [the] result would be that 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.”
On his withdrawl of the bill, Campos is quoted saying, ”The public opposition of my party … prevented, briefly, the possibility of [the bills] adoption.”
“On the other hand,” he said, “[I] will not allow this Chamber and government [to] use this project to divert the focus away from the priorities of the people, as expressed in the street protests.”
The legislation technically now needs a full vote to be cast aside. But, with its primary sponsor no longer supporting the legislation, this is seen as only a formality.
Some fear that Campos’ withdrawing of the bill — rather than letting it be voted down — may keep the gay therapy legislation in play the next legislative session. This victory might be seen as a postponed threat instead of a defeated discrimination.
The bill’s other primary sponsor is, ironically, the head of the Chamber’s Human Rights and Minorities Committee, Marco Feliciano.
Feliciano is on record as referring to AIDS as a “gay cancer.” He has made several racist remarks, such as, “Africans descend from an ancestor cursed by Noah” and so suffer from “hunger, diseases [and] ethnic wars”.
His appointment as head of the Human Rights and Minorities Committee (HRMC) was widely opposed, especially among Afro-Brazilians who continue to be an oppressed and legally disenfranchised demographic.
Brazil’s civil unrest has been extensively reported, with massive demonstrations against Brazil’s presiding government. Feliciano’s leadership of the HRMC has not been front page news, but is a prime example of the right wing fervor that many fear is contaminating Brazilian politics.
Reuters reports that the withdrawing of the bill will not be the end of the matter for Feliciano. Activists now want Feliciano stripped of his powers.
“Today we are celebrating,” says Guilhermina Cunha, the vice president of the Brazilian GLBT Association. “The next step, however, and we we’re not yet sure how to do it, is to remove Feliciano from his position.”
Image credit: Thinkstock.