Just in time for International Pride Month, Brazil’s Supreme Court has ruled in favor of equality by voting that discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity are crimes equivalent to racism. The court’s next task will be to pass specific legislation that protects the LGBTQ community.

The case was brought forward by the national Brazilian Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transsexual and Intersex Association (ABGLT) network and the Popular Socialist Party, who argued that there had been an “unconstitutional delay” in criminalizing violence against LGBTQ people.

The groups had good reason for bringing the joint motion forward, reminding the public that Brazil’s Congress has been sitting on this anti-discrimination legislation for almost 20 years. Brazil contends with some of the highest rates of violent murders and crimes in the world and those numbers are magnified within disenfranchised groups. According to Grupo de Gay de Bahia, at least 141 LGBT people have been killed in Brazil this year. In 2018, 420 LGBT people were killed across the South American country.

“Homophobic crimes are as alarming as physical violence,” Supreme Court Vice-President Luiz Fux stated in his vote, proclaiming “epidemic levels of homophobic violence”.

The nation elected a conservative, self-identified homophobic president just five months ago and his anti-LGBTQ rhetoric has stoked the flames of discriminatory violence. At the beginning of this year, openly gay Brazilian congressman Jean Wyllys abandoned his third term in office and fled the country due to death threats and physical harassment. In 2018, a lesbian councilwoman from Rio was assassinated.

This new judgment serves as reassurance that such acts will from now on be punished and forces the government to provide national data on anti-LGBTQ violence, a task that currently falls on local groups.