The city of Teresina, Brazil has issued a formal warning this week to a bar that banned a lesbian couple from attending its Valentine’s Day party.
The warning, given on 18 June, was issued by a municipal commission that investigated a complaint by the lesbian couple that the bar violated the city's anti-discrimination law.
This law has been in force since 2002, but it is the first time it is known to have been used. The law can sanction punishments ranging from a warning to significant financial penalties and even closure of an establishment found to be guilty of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
In March this year the Planeta Diário bar had already been ordered by Judge Manoel de Sousa Dourado to pay a fine of R$ 4,000 ($1,952 €1,553) as compensation for its discriminatory behaviour towards the lesbian couple.
In June 2011 a lesbian couple identified by the initials VAA and EAS were attending a Valentine’s Day party in the Planeta Diário bar. According to the couple, while they were dancing they were approached by the security of the establishment and told that the owner did not accept 'that kind of behavior' and were asked to leave the premises.
The couple then sought the advice of the local LGBT group Matizes who advised them to report the incident to the anti-discrimination police department, which then took the establishment to court.
Maria Jose Ventura, coordinator of the group Matizes, praised the municipal authorities actions, noting that this punishment has an educational value. He believes that as well as raising awareness of prejudice against LGBT people it will also be an example to other companies not to discriminate.
Speaking with Gay Star News, Professor Luiz Mott founder of LGBT Rights Gay Group of Bahia said: ‘This case of anti-discrimination is important twofold:
‘Firstly, the anti-homophobic victory occurred in a poor and macho-oriented state of Piauí, of which Teresina is the capital.
‘Secondly, victories over homophobic behavior obtained by the LGBT movements are quite rare and so we were glad to learn of this victory.’
According to Mott the local group Matizes, headed by the lesbian lawyer Marinalva Santana is doing exceptional advocacy work.
Mott however stresses that there is still much work ahead: ‘Brazil is the world champion of LGBT related murders: with 266 registered murders in 2011, and already 159 this year alone (figures obtained until June 2012). 53% of the murdered were gays, 41% trans and 6% lesbians.
‘While lesbians are less victimized in homicides, they suffer a lot of discrimination at home and sometimes in public spaces, as in this case.’