Battle over Marvel comic gay kiss is defused by Brazil court

Rio de Janeiro (AFP) –


Brazil's Supreme Court on Sunday made it illegal to ban any LGBT publication, after a lower court allowed conservative mayor to confiscate comic books at the Rio Book Fair containing content he considered "inappropriate" for minors.

Mayor Marcelo Crivella, an Evangelical Protestant, ordered the comic book removed from sale because of its "sexual content for minors" on Saturday.

Crivella -- a former bishop in the giant Universal Church of the Kingdom of God -- was elected Rio's mayor in 2016, promising to bring law and order to a city beset by crime.

The comic that sparked the mayor's ire showed the Marvel superhero characters Wiccan and Hulkling exchanging a kiss, fully dressed.

But the federal top court agreed with prosecutor Dias Toffoli and ruled that Crivella's actions were illegal because they targeted only LGBT content, violating the constitutional guarantee of equality for all.

And Crivella's move backfired as copies of "Young Avengers: the Children's Crusade" quickly sold out after he demanded it be withdrawn from the book fair, organizers told AFP.

Popular Brazilian YouTuber Felipe Neto, who has more than 34 million subscribers to his channel, also bought 14,000 books on LGBT themes and distributed them free at the fair in protest.

The image of the Marvel comic kiss was also on display Saturday at news kiosks across the country, printed on the cover of the Folha de S. Paulo, Brazil's largest national newspaper.

Publishers and writers accuse the mayor of wanting to censor content.

Constitutional law specialist Michael Mohallem, of the Getulio Vargas Foundation, had previously said that the mayor's actions, and the court decision permitting them, would violate free speech and discriminate based on sexual orientation.

"Since the decision seems to be specifically aimed at prohibiting the circulation of magazines that show gay kisses (rather than any other), my interpretation is that it is motivated by discrimination, both by the mayor and the judge," Mohallem said.

Brazil's Supreme Court in June voted to criminalize homophobia, classifying it as a crime similar to racism.

It was an important step for sexual minorities in one of the most dangerous countries for LGBT people in the world, but was criticized by far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who has a history of homophobic remarks.

Brazil had already legalized same-sex marriage.