(Photo: YouTube screengrab)
A same-sex couple was arrested by Brazilian authorities earlier this month after they stood amid a large crowd gathered for an evangelistic event to embrace each other and share a kiss.
Upon seeing the two women, Pastor Marco Feliciano, who was speaking on stage at the time, stopped his message to order the pair to be arrested while the crowd of about 70,000 in attendance began to cheer in agreement.
"Those two girls have to leave here handcuffed" said Feliciano, who is also president of the Brazilian House Commission for Human Rights and Minorities, as shown in a video of the event. "No use trying to run, guards are headed there now. This here isn't a place where anything goes. It's the house of God."
The women, age 18 and 20, were escorted out of the gathering and jailed at the town of São Sebastião's police station where they claimed that police physically assaulted them during their arrest while defending their right to kiss since other heterosexual couples around them at the event were also engaged in kissing.
"The event was public, paid for with our taxes. That stage, that microphone, everything was with public money. It was also an open space, on Beach Street. It was our right to be there," said Yunka Mihura, 20, reports Public Radio International.
Their public display of affection stirred up a debate over gay rights and freedom of religion in Brazil, a country known for being heavily influenced by the Catholic Church. Feliciano demanded that they be escorted out of the event for disturbing the evangelistic gathering, and although the women's attorney said the event had a right to take place, he also argued that the women had a right to embrace in the manner that they did.
"We see it as a situation that got completely out of control," said attorney Daniel Galani, reports PRI. "We know there are two rights in conflict: one is the freedom of expression and the other the freedom of religious practice. The two rights are constitutional and are prescribed so that people can make use of them."