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Brazil governor, presidential candidate comes out as gay

Eduardo Leite hopes to challenge President Jair Bolsonaro

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Eduardo Leite (Twitter photo)

The governor of Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul state came out as gay on July 1 during an interview with a late-night talk show host.

“I am gay, I am gay,” Eduardo Leite told “Conversa Com Bial” host Pedro Bial. “I am a governor who is gay, not a gay governor, like Obama in the United States was a president who was Black, not a Black president, and I’m proud of that.”

“I didn’t bring this issue up, but I never denied who I am. I never created a character,” added Leite. “I didn’t try to make people believe in something different, and I am proud of this integrity.”

Leite also told Bial that he has been with his boyfriend — a doctor from Espírito Santo state — for nine months.

“I have enormous admiration and love for him,” said Leite.

Leite, 36, is the first openly gay governor in Brazil’s history.

He is a member of the center-left Brazilian Social Democracy Party. Leite has governed Rio Grande do Sul, which is Brazil’s southernmost state, since 2019.

Leite endorsed President Jair Bolsonaro, despite his anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and vocal opposition to marriage equality and other issues, during the second round of Brazil’s 2018 presidential election.

Leite has sharply criticized Bolsonaro over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. Leite is running in his party’s primaries in November, which will choose the candidate who will challenge Bolsonaro in next year’s presidential election.

Toni Reis, president of Aliança Nacional LGBTI+, a Brazilian LGBTQ advocacy group, on Monday described Leite’s coming out to the Washington Blade as a “courageous act, particularly in a state (Rio Grande do Sul) that has a very strong ‘machista’ culture with strong dividing lines between the roles expected of males and females.” Reis also noted Leite recently attended Aliança National LGBTI+ Rio Grande do Sul Coordinator Dani Boeira’s wedding.

“He’s still in the ‘primaries’ of his political party, along with another three possible presidential candidates in the same party, which is center-left,” Reis told the Blade. “Nevertheless, coming out was probably a wise step to take in order to prevent his being gay being used against him in the campaign period should he get to be a candidate.” 

“The positive visibility he has given to being gay is very important for the Brazilian LGBTI+ community,” added Reis. “He’s openly supportive of LGBTI+ issues, but is more aligned with the center than the left, given his political party.”

Rio Grande do Sul Gov. Eduardo Leite, center, with Aliança Nacional LGBTI+ Rio Grande do Sul Coordinator Dani Boeira, right, at Boeira’s wedding to his husband. (Photo courtesy of Aliança Nacional LGBTI+ President Toni Reis)

Ricardo Sales, founder of Mais Diversidade, a São Paulo-based consultancy that promotes diversity and inclusion throughout Latin America, also applauded Leite.

“It is important that the governor of one of the biggest states of the country come out,” Sales told the Blade on Saturday.

Sales, nevertheless, noted Leite’s decision to back Bolsonaro for president.

“I hope, now that Eduardo is out of the closet, he can promote the agenda of LGBT rights,” said Sales.

Sales also noted Fatima Bezerra, the governor of Rio Grande do Norte state, in a July 2 tweet appeared to publicly acknowledge she is an LGBTQ Brazilian.

“There have never been closets in my public or private life,” tweeted Bezerra. “I have always noted my positions through my political activities; without ever erasing myself in the fight against machismo, racism, LGBTphobia and any other type of oppression and violence.”

Reuters reported Bolsonaro accused Leite of wanting to use his coming out as a “business card” for his presidential campaign.

“I have nothing against his private life, but he cannot impose his lifestyle on others,” Bolsonaro told his supporters, according to Reuters.

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Russia

New anti-LGBTQ propaganda bill sent to Putin

LGBTQ Russians ‘will cease to be publicly known’

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(Screenshot from Russian state media)

The upper chamber of the Russian State Duma voted Nov. 30 to approve legislation banning LGBTQ propaganda as well as materials that promote discussion of gender reassignment and mention of LGBTQ issues to minors, which is categorized as promotion of pedophilia. Violation of the ban will result in fines of up to 10 million rubles ($160,212.80.)

The legislation now heads to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is expected to sign it within the next few days. Russian State Media outlet RIA News reported the new ban on LGBTQ propaganda, gender reassignment and pedophilia will apply to films, books, commercials, media publications and computer games.

The legislation broadens the scope of the existing “Protecting Children from Information Advocating a Denial of Traditional Family Values,” statute signed into law by Putin on June 30, 2013.

That statute amended the country’s child protection law and the Code of the Russian Federation on Administrative Offenses to prohibit the distribution of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships” among minors.

The definition includes materials that “raises interest in” such relationships, cause minors to “form non-traditional sexual predispositions,” or “[present] distorted ideas about the equal social value of traditional and non-traditional sexual relationships.”

Businesses and organizations can also be forced to temporarily cease operations if convicted under the law, and foreigners may be arrested and detained for up to 15 days then deported, or fined up to 5,000 rubles ($80.11) and deported.

The new law will  extend “responsibility for propaganda of LGBTQ+ people among adults,” in addition to the earlier law regarding minors.

The language of the bill also introduces a ban on issuing a rental certificate to a film if it contains materials that promote non-traditional sexual relations and preferences is established. The document also provides for the introduction of a mechanism that restricts children’s access to listening to or viewing LGBTQ information on paid services. 

The newly expanded law provides for the Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media to be vested with the right to determine the procedure for conducting monitoring on the Internet to identify information, access to which should be restricted in accordance with the federal law on information.

A requirement is also set on paid services to enter codes or perform other actions to confirm the age of the user. At the same time, access to LGBTQ information is prohibited for citizens under 18 years of age.

In addition, it provides for a ban on the sale of goods, including imported goods, containing information, the dissemination of which provides for administrative or criminal liability. 

Also, the law “on the protection of children from information harmful to their health and development” is supplemented by an article on the promotion of non-traditional sexual relations, pedophilia and information that can make children want to change their sex.

The latter language pointedly inserted as transgender people have been a frequent target of attacks by the Russian president in speeches recently blaming the West for a global decay in moral values that run counter to what Putin describes as “Russia’s strong morals.”

Human Rights Watch noted that given the already deeply hostile climate for LGBTQ people in Russia, there will be uptick in often-gruesome vigilante violence against LGBTQ people in Russia — frequently carried out in the name of protecting Russian values and Russia’s children.

Legal scholars say the vagueness of the bill’s language gives room for government enforcers to interpret the language as broadly as they desire, leaving members of the Russian LGBTQ community and their allies in a state of even greater fear and stress filled uncertainty.

The Moscow Times newspaper and webzine, which publishes outside of the Russian Federation to avoid censorship, ran an article Dec. 2 reporting on St. Petersburg LGBTQ activist Pyotr Voskresensky, who in an act of defiance opened up a small “LGBTQ museum” in his apartment prior to Putin’s signing the measure into law.

“The museum is a political act,” said Voskresensky. “As this era is coming to an end, I felt I wanted to say one last word.”

Voskresensky — who has spent years acquiring Russian-made statues, jewelry, vases, books and other art objects that tell stories about the country’s LGBTQ subculture — decided this was his last opportunity to share his collection with ordinary people he told the Times.

For safety reasons, the museum’s location has not been made public: Hopeful visitors must contact Voskresensky via Facebook to receive the address.  

On a recent tour, the first thing visible to visitors at the entrance was a portrait of composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky, one of the most famous gay men in pre-revolutionary Russia. 

At the end of the exhibition, there were a few contemporary art pieces, including a satirical model depicting Russian Duma Deputy Vitaly Milonov, a prominent supporter of the anti-gay legislation, wearing a bridal veil. 

Anti-LGBTQ lawmaker and parliamentarian Vitaly Milonov
(Courtesy of Pyotr Voskresensky via the Moscow Times)

In a phone call with the Washington Blade on Saturday, a young Russian LGBTQ activist who asked to not be identified for fear of Russian government reprisals and who has communicated with the Blade previously from their Helsinki safe space, reiterated:

“These [Russian obscenity] politicians want to so-called “non-traditional” LGBTQ+ lifestyles erased out of public life. They and their so called colluders in church are ignorant of truth that LGBTQ+ people will exist no matter what. It is scientific fact not their religious fairytales and fictions.”

The activist also noted that with Putin’s signature, Russian LGBTQ people “will cease to be publicly known” effectively driving them underground. “Those bastards have tried to make us erased — they stupidly think we no longer [will] exist” The activist angrily vowed; “we are not disappeared — never. We are human and we are natural and they will not defeat our humanity.”

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Middle East

Far-right Israeli politician vows to cancel Jerusalem Pride

Avi Maoz rebuked by Benjamin Netanyahu

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Avi Maoz (Screen capture via i24NEWS English YouTube)

A far-right Israeli politician on Wednesday said the country’s new government should not allow the annual Jerusalem Pride parade to take place.

Walla News Diplomatic Correspondent Barak Ravid noted Avi Maoz, a member of the Israeli Knesset who is a member of the far-right Noam party, told the Olam Katan newspaper the incoming government needs “to cancel the Jerusalem Pride parade.”

“It’s a disgrace,” said Maoz. “I am as serious as I can be. It didn’t come up in the coalition agreement, but I am not hiding, I want it cancelled.”

President Isaac Herzog has asked Netanyahu to form a government after his Likud Party won the election that took place on Nov. 1. Maoz’s party is among those that could form a coalition government with Netanyahu as prime minister.

WDG, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Israel, previously reported Maoz promotes an anti-LGBTQ agenda based on the preservation of family values.

Ravid noted Netanyahu has said the Jerusalem Pride parade “will continue.”

“My government will not harm the rights of the LGBT community or any of Israel’s citizens,” said Netanyahu. 

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Asia

Japanese court rules same-sex marriage ban is constitutional

Ruling said lack of legal protections violate couples’ human rights

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(Bigstock photos)

A district court in the Tokyo Prefecture ruled on Wednesday that Japan’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage is legal. The court added that the absence of a legal system to protect same-sex families infringed upon their human rights.

In a statement to Reuters, Nobuhito Sawasaki, an attorney for the plaintiffs told the wire service, “This is actually a fairly positive ruling,” said Sawasaki who added, “While marriage remains between a man and a woman, and the ruling supported that, it also said that the current situation with no legal protections for same-sex families is not good, and suggested something must be done about it.”

This past June in Osaka Prefecture, the district court in that jurisdiction said that the country’s ban on same-sex marriage was not unconstitutional. The case had been filed by three same-sex couples — two male, one female — and is only the second legal challenge to have been filed in Japan. 

In March 2021, the Sapporo District Court issued its ruling the country’s constitution does not ban same-sex couples from legally marrying and ensures them a right to marry. Under current Japanese law, same-sex couples are banned from legally marrying, which means partners cannot inherit each other’s assets upon death and have no parental rights over the other’s child.

In the Sapporo case, Nikkei Asia reported three couples — also two male and one female — tried to register their marriages in 2019, but local officials turned them away.

The couples sued and the court ruled the government’s actions violated two provisions of the Japanese Constitution: Article 14 that ensures the right to equal treatment and Article 24, which does not expressly deny the right of marriage to same-sex couples.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said the issue needs to be carefully considered, his ruling Liberal Democratic Party has disclosed no plans to review the matter or propose legislation, though some senior party members favor reform.

An opinion poll by the Tokyo Prefecture late last year found some 70 percent of people were in favor of same-sex marriage.

Reuters reported that the Tokyo ruling promises to be influential as the capital has an outsized influence on the rest of Japan.

Gon Matsunaka, head of the activist group Marriage for All Japan told Reuters “This is hard to accept. Both heterosexual and same-sex couples should be able to benefit equally from the system of marriage, as everyone is equal under the law,” he said and added. “It (the ruling) clearly said that is not possible.” Yet the recognition that same-sex families lacked legal protections was “a big step” he noted.

Reuters reported that two more cases are pending in Japan, and activists and lawyers hope an accumulation of judicial decisions supporting same-sex marriage will eventually push lawmakers to change the system, even if this is unlikely soon.

“I hope there will be legislative debate about this,” said plaintiff Shizuka Oe. “We will keep making efforts.”

Tokyo court ruling upholds ban on same-sex marriage:

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