Former Ecuadorian presidential candidate for the PRE party, and current evangelical preacher Nelson Zavala has been penalized by the suspension of his political rights after he repeatedly made homophobic comments during his electoral campaign.
Zavala has been under fire for the last couple of months for using derogatory terms against the gay community, several local media report. Among the negative references, he has affirmed in the past that being gay is “immoral,” a “sin” and a “deviation of conduct.”
People from the LGBT community and gay rights supporters complained in February about the authoritative expressions. According to El Universal, after evaluating the case, Ecuadorian judge Patrio Baca determined the religious leader will be banned from any affiliation to a political or governmental movement for a year.
He will also have to pay a fine of little over $3,000, and can be also sentenced for a hate crime, El Universal reports.
The Ecuadorian electoral code "forbids candidates from publicly expressing any thoughts that discriminate or affect other people's dignity or utilize symbols, expressions or allusions of a religious nature,” BBC News reports.
Zavala has said he doesn’t regret his expressions, and will appeal in court. He also defended himself by assuring it is not a sentence against him, but against “all heterosexual families."
"On what they judge me, they will be judged. They don’t have interference in heaven. One day God will judge everything, and be prepared to explain to God why you called evil good, and good evil," said Zavala after hearing his verdict.
This decision comes during a time when the recently re-elected Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa has been rebuilding bridges with the LGBT community. In a historic speech in February the South American leader apologized to gay Ecuadorians for homophobic comments made last year, and promised his government will be more inclusive and sensitive moving forward.
Meanwhile, recently, Venezuelan presidential candidate Henrique Capriles also defended the LGBT community by affirming that discriminating against gay people is “absolute fascism,” after Hugo Chavez’s government used the term “gay” in an attempt to insult him.