Brazil's highest court has moved one step closer to enacting laws that would make discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity a federal crime.

Two LGBT women kiss during gay pride in Rio de Janeiro (Photo: C.H. Gardiner)

Two LGBT women kiss during gay pride in Rio de Janeiro (Photo: C.H. Gardiner)

Following a suspension of three months, the Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF) reconvened Thursday to evaluate extending special protections to members of 'Brazil's LGBT community. So far six of the eleven ministers that make up the STF have voted in favor of the change in the law. The remaining five will give their vote June 5.

Although laws targeting LGBT violence are in place in several states in Brazil, if passed, the decision by the STF would be the first law making LGBT discrimination illegal at a national level.

Julio Moreira of the pro-LGBT NGO Grupo Arco-Íris told the Rio Times that the law is crucial because it would extend some of the safeguards in place for other protected groups to the LGBT community. At present, a murder motivated by hate because of sexual orientation or gender identity is charged without any legal distinction.

"In the case of the murder of LGBT people, the very form of the killing shows just how much hate there is behind it. Often the victim is shot multiple times; there are many stab wounds, sometimes appendages are removed. This comes from a place of hate," said Moreira.

At present, four members of the STF have shown support for the change in law means that at least two of the remaining seven will need to approve of it for the motion to be successful. Attempts to pass similar laws extend back as far as 2001 but have as of yet not been successful on a federal level.

The changes would extend protections to 'Brazil's transgender community, which has also suffered discrimination in recent years. A 2018 report by the NGO Transgender Europe labeled Brazil as having the highest number of transgendered people murdered in the world.

Artists perform a symbolic presentation during a demonstration in downtown Rio de Janeiro (photo: C.H. Gardiner)

Artists perform a symbolic presentation during a demonstration in downtown Rio de Janeiro (photo: C.H. Gardiner)

Bárbara Aires, a transgendered woman who ran for 'state's deputy with the Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL), said that the laws are even more necessary right now due to the political climate. "We are living in a moment where the highest elected representative in our country speaks in a way that inflames prejudice, and violence," Aires said.

President Jair Bolsonaro has made several controversial statements regarding the gay community in the past and recently said that Brazil "can't be a country for gay tourism" because "we have families here." According to 'Brazil's Sebrae institute, Tourism to Brazil by the gay community grew 11% in 2017, more than any other area.

Aires said that at present, the law does not protect all people equally. "We know that the reality of the situation is that the system does not work that way. Some people are more equal than others. There is no way to compare how crimes and murders are resolved when the victim is a white straight, rich man, and when 'it's a black trans woman from the favelas."