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Homophobic Leadership in Brazil's Congress Puts Marriage Equality in Peril

Homophobic Leadership in Brazil's Congress Puts Marriage Equality in Peril


Brazil's burgeoning evangelical movement is on a fast track to power, with a decidedly antigay mission.

Brazil's 8 million-member Universal Church of the Kingdom of God is at the head of a social conservative movement whose coalition of political parties wrested control of the country's National Congress after an election in October with a stated goal of reversing the 2013 court decision that brought marriage equality to the nation.

The ascent of social conservatives in Brazil's two-chamber legislature appears to have caught the nation's still-influential (and still in power at the executive level) progressives by surprise, according to an analysis by BuzzFeed.

One worrying result of Brazilian progressives' slue-footedness in responding to the burgeoning threat to their successes, including expanded rights for gender and sexual minorities, is the fact that even President Dilma Rousseff, an LGBT ally, felt compelled to seek votes from the 50 million or so Brazilians who identify as evangelical Christians.

Now liberals such as lower-chamber House of Deputies member Jean Wyllys are sounding the alarm about an onslaught of religious fundamentalism that, as BuzzFeed notes, the out politician says is as dangerous to LGBT people and the progressive cause as Islamic extremism.

"When will we wake up to the true nature of the monster emerging from the lake?" Wyllys recently posited.

But a Universal Church-affiliated program called Gladiators of the Altar may have inadvertently done more than any progressive politico could hope to do in terms of drawing public attention to looming threats, such as a new "family-front" bill in the Brazilian Congress that would roll back protections LGBT citizens currently enjoy.

As BuzzFeed's J. Lester Feder points out, the young members of Gladiators of the Altar look more like an army of "straight-arm saluting" paramilitary men than any church youth group that might be recognizable to American evangelicals. A video posted by Gladiators that went viral shocked Brazilians and viewers around the world. It showed sharply uniformed troops marching through a cheering crowd reciting the cadence: "Thank the Lord, we are here today ready for battle, and determined to serve you -- we are Gladiators of the Altar."

The video was taken down about 24 hours after a provincial branch of the Universal Church posted it -- but only after it received about a million views.

One of Wyllys's colleagues in the House of Deputies is evangelical Eduardo Cunha. Cunha, who not long ago basked in the media spotlight he created by proposing a Hetero Pride Day, is now president of the lower house. As Feder notes, his freshly empowered social conservatives are feeling "bullish" with Cunha as their leader.

Meanwhile, an Orwellian reference Wyllys wrote in a 2012 op-ed for The Advocate, titled "Why I Proposed Marriage Equality in Brazil," has even more relevance today as Cunha's new army of evangelicals aims to roll back equality:

"As George Orwell in his consecrated Animal Farm put it: 'All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others,'" Wyllys wrote. "It is still not much different with human beings,'"

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Thom Senzee