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Brazil Celebrates Gay Pride And Favorable Supreme Court Ruling


The new president of Brazil has been in office a little less than six months. Many people saw the election of Jair Bolsonaro as a challenge to democracy itself. He comes from the far right. Some of those fears have not proved justified yet, but many Brazilians see him as a threat to their rights. And many were in the streets, yesterday, of Sao Paulo. NPR's Philip Reeves was there, too.


PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: This is one of the biggest gay pride parades in the world. Hundreds of thousands of people are here. Sao Paulo's held this event every year for more than two decades. Alef Jessica's a gay man of 25, who's come in drag. He says this year's parade's different because of one man, Jair Bolsonaro.

ALEF JESSICA: At the time Bolsonaro came in power, a lot of rage, a lot of fear of the unknown, of the different came out. You know, the people that are violent, they came out of - you know, of the closet as well. So now they have this rage against us. So it's different.


REEVES: This parade looks like a massive party, a vast and joyous gathering of exotically clad people flourishing the rainbow flag, drinking and dancing all day long. Yet stop and talk to people, and you'll hear how much they worry. Karina Mussa is here to support her son, who's 25 and gay.

And you worry about his security here?

KARINA MUSSA: Yes, of course, and for all the - all the others.

REEVES: And do you worry more now than you used to before?

MUSSA: Yes, I do because of the government. I feel ashamed (laughter).

REEVES: Bolsonaro once said he'd rather have a dead son than a gay one. That was before he became president. In office, he's declared he doesn't want Brazil to be a gay tourist destination. He's also made disparaging comments about a leading gay activist, calling him a girl. Bolsonaro's supporters tend to say these are just words to shore up his conservative base.

Yet LGBTQ Brazilians are frequent targets of violence and stigma. One hundred and forty-one were killed in attacks or committed suicide from January to mid-May this year, according to Grupo Gay Bahia (ph), which monitors this type of hate crime. Words are dangerous here, says Bruno Marco, who's 33.

BRUNO MARCO: And this kind of speech is gaining force, is getting stronger. And we have to stay here on the streets just to say, no, you are not right. We have rights, and we are here for the rights.

REEVES: In the month after Bolsonaro was elected but before he was sworn in, same sex marriages in Brazil rose by about two-thirds. Gay Brazilians said they wanted to marry quickly in case they lost the right to do so. Here in Sao Paulo, some held mass weddings. Yet Bolsonaro's government has struggled to get anything much done on any front. For Fabio Zanini it's been...

FABIO ZANINI: Chaotic, confused, very unpredictable.

REEVES: Zanini's editor at large with A Folha (ph), a leading Brazilian newspaper.

ZANINI: This is a government that has a lot of internal fighting. We have literally a crisis on a weekly basis.

REEVES: Bolsonaro's latest crisis features his justice minister, Sergio Moro. Moro was a judge. He won worldwide fame by campaigning against corruption and jailing politicians and executives embroiled in Brazil's Car Wash investigation. Last year, Moro dispatched to prison Bolsonaro's biggest rival, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva - Lula, as he's known by everyone.

Now Intercept, an investigative website, says it's acquired leaked materials showing Moro collaborated with prosecutors to fast-track Lula's conviction and stop him from running in the election that Bolsonaro won. Moro denies it.

Back at the gay pride parade, people are celebrating the Intercept allegations as a blow to Bolsonaro. They're also celebrating something else. The other day, Brazil's Supreme Court criminalized discrimination against homosexuals and transgender people. Bolsonaro called that ruling wrong. For Alef Jessica, the ruling is a big deal.

JESSICA: It is because it took a long time for us to get that. It was a struggle for many years.

REEVES: Yet, he adds...

JESSICA: We feel like we're still fighting. This is like a tiny victory. We're still in a war. We're still in a war against this president.

REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News, Sao Paulo.


NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.

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