"Racism is a crime against flesh and blood, whether it is a member of the LGBT community, a Jew or an Afro-descendant," Justice Fux said Thursday.
Six of Brazil's 11 Supreme Court justices have voted in favor of making homophobia and transphobia crimes in the South American country, which is led by a far-right president who systematically threatens LGBT and other minority group progress.
"Homophobic crimes are as alarming as physical violence," the BBC reported citing Brazilian Supreme Court Vice-President Luiz Fux, who further highlighted that there are "epidemic levels of homophobic violence" across the country.
The judges ruled that homophobia should, for now, be framed within the context of the country’s racism law until Congress approves specific legislation which would be tailored to address LGBT discrimination.
“It is a decisive win for the LGBT community,” Flavio Grossi, a criminal defense lawyer, said. “LGBT people are scared. I have seen an increase in clients reporting instances of physical aggression, hate crimes and racism.”
Though there have been advancements, such as same-sex marriage being made legal in 2013 as well as LGBT couples being granted the right to adopt, Brazil’s only openly gay congressman vacated his seat and fled the country amid fear from death threats.
Every 16 hours someone is killed in a homophobic attack in the South American nation, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has reported.
The group of legislators noted that there existed an omission in law which had left members of the LGBT community legally unprotected.
President of the Niteroi Diversity group, Bruna Benevides, endorsed the positive outcome of the vote and added that the ruling "comes at a very good moment, when we have a head of state who is LGBT-phobic."
President Jair Bolsonaro has a history of making offensive comments about gay people, black people and other minorities.
Bolsonaro once said he would rather have a dead son than a gay son.
"Racism is a crime against flesh and blood, whether it is a member of the LGBT community, a Jew or an Afro-descendant," Fux said Thursday and added that “there is no guarantee the bill will pass, and even if it does, it can be vetoed and homophobia will continue. The judiciary must act in defense of minorities against violence by the majority.”
Racism was made a crime, in 1989, and carries prison sentences of up to five years.
The Brazilian Senate is reportedly also reviewing a bill to criminalize discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender, with sentences of up to five years.
According to rights group Grupo Gay da Bahia, some 420 LGBT people were killed across Brazil in 2018 and at least 141 so far in 2019.
Brazil led the world in transgender homicides in 2017, with 171 murders, according to the organization TransEurope.
The remaining five judges are set to vote in June, but the current result will not be modified and will take effect after.