Brazil's latest government statistics have revealed a sharp increase in same-sex couples who married before President Jair Bolsonaro assumed office. The far-right leader has called himself a "proud homophobe."
The number of same-sex marriages soared 61.7% between 2017 and 2018, according to data released this week by IBGE, Brazil's government statistics agency.
While the survey data indicated a 1.6% drop in the country's total number of civil marriages, same-sex marriages jumped from 5,887 to 9,520 during that time period.
Same-sex female marriages represented 58.4% of those unions. The largest increase was observed in Brazil's Northeast Region (85.2%) and the Central-West Region (42.5%).
President Jair Bolsonaro, who has called himself a "proud homophobe," took office on January 1, 2019. One-fifth of the 9,520 marriages took place in December 2018.
LGBT+ advocates say the newly released data reveal citizens' fears that Bolsonaro would violate their rights.
LGBT+ community fears legal limitations
In 2013, Brazil's National Council of Justice legalized same-sex marriage. However, rights advocates said Bolsonaro's election accelerated LGBT+ couples in tying the knot, for fear he might pass legislation to restrict their right to wed.
The right to marry also allows same-sex couples in Brazil to share health care benefits and inheritances.
"The LGBT community knows its rights, and this conservative wave led to a reaction, to reaffirm this right and defend it," Claudio Nascimento from Brazil's LGBTI National Alliance, a nonprofit group, told Reuters news agency.
Far-right President and former military officer Bolsonaro said in a 2011 Playboy magazine interview that he "would be incapable of loving a homosexual son," adding that he would "prefer my son to die in an accident than show up with a mustachioed man."
In May 2002, Bolsonaro said that if he saw "two men kissing each other on the street" he would "beat them up."
Same-sex marriage is currently legal in 27 countries. Austria, Ecuador and Taiwan recognized the legal right of gay couples to wed this year.