TO MANY PEOPLE, 11th September is a date rife with memories of terror, violence and fire; 24 year old Solange Ramires and 26 year old Sabriny Benites never expected, however, those feelings would become so personal.
The two were to be wed in a local Gaucho Traditions Center (CTG) in Santana do Livramento on the 13th, along with 27 other couples. However, at four a.m on the 11th, the so eagerly expected marriage was threatened when the CTG was set ablaze by molotov cocktails, in what has been called a terror attack.
The attack was not random: a month earlier, when news of the wedding first came out on the small Rio Grande do Sul city, both the local judge – Carine Labres – and the head of the CTG – city representative Gilberto “Xepa” Gisler – received death threats over the “immorality”.
Following this were, sadly fulfilled, threats of arson. According to Gisler, an anonymous caller said “there was no way” the wedding was to happen – even if they had to “beat the crap out of this so called ‘Xepa’, get rid of the judge and set the CTG on fire”.
To the police, the fire was a deliberate attack. To Brazil’s Human Rights minister, Ideli Salvatti, this arson is another reason why the country urgently needs to criminalize homophobia.
According to eyewitness reports, after Gisler left the center early on the 11th, four men left a nearby bar in a white car, and lobbed in what the police believes were molotov cocktails.The attack started two localized fires, one of them in the main hall which was completely destroyed.
While locals started rebuilding the center on the following day, in preparation for the ceremony, the collective wedding had to be moved to the local courthouse. It happened without further incidents.
However, the whole affair caused a great deal of debate in social media and the Rio Grande do Sul press. Many – including Zero Hora columnist David Coimbra – took the position that the true offenders were the judge and the two women; according to that mindset, they were “offending tradition” and “provoking hostility” to the point that “defenders of such traditions felt more comfortable torching the CTG than seeing it hosting a gay wedding”.
Others claimed minorities should “know their place” – which according to online comments, doesn’t include CTGs, churches, courthouses, stadiums or the state of Rio Grande do Sul – and that the judge should be “relieved of duty” for supporting gay rights. On the 12th, Judge Labres requested a fake Facebook profile of herself be taken down – the online profile was being used to malign and defame her.
About the intimidation, she was succinct: “we won’t be shut down, the rights of minorities are guaranteed”.
Others were supportive of the wedding – including many in the same newspaper, Zero Hora. Adriana Franciosi, another ZH writer, noted that – in the ‘name of tradition’ – black people were forbidden to enter many CTGs until 1988. By claiming that marrying two women in the CTG “attacks tradition”, she claims, Coimbra is at the same time defending social conservatism.
“If we followed David’s logic”, she said in a open Facebook status “women would still be confined to the kitchen and the household. After all, why work and be independent? As puts David, why cause trouble?”.
Written by Pedro Leal
Photo Credit: Rodrigo_Soldon