Antigay Brazil official indicted
December 05 2003 1:00 AM ET
A mayor in southern Brazil who signed a decree barring gay people from entering his town has been indicted under antidiscrimination laws, the state prosecutor handling the case said Wednesday. "Mayor Elcio Berti stepped beyond any reasonable limit," prosecutor Agenor Salgado told the Associated Press. "If convicted, he could face two to four years in prison, aside from losing his office."
Berti, mayor of the 10,000-population town of Bocaiuva do Sul, 250 miles south of Sao Paulo, signed a decree Monday "prohibiting the presence in this jurisdiction of members of the class known as homosexuals, who can bring no benefits whatsoever to the town." A gay rights group called Dignity announced that it would mount protests outside the Bocaiuva do Sul city hall on Thursday.
Berti was unavailable for comment. "The mayor has shut down city hall and disappeared," said Bocaiuva do Sul police officer Waldemar Mateus. "Even we don't know where he is."
Salgado said Berti's decree violated antidiscrimination clauses in Brazil's 1988 Constitution as well as local laws against discrimination and the abuse of administrative powers.
In a statement accompanying his decree, Berti wrote that his intention was "to put family interests first." Elected in 2000, Berti has issued other decrees that were later knocked down by courts. One decree banned the sale of condoms in the town, while another prohibited the sale of cigarettes.