Debate continues in Brazil over government proposals to criminalise homophobia.

Under the proposals, Roman Catholic priests and other clergy might face two to five years in prison for preaching against homosexuality.

A rector of a seminary who refuses admission to a homosexual student could face three to five years.

The Brazilian Senate was supposed to vote on the legislation last Thursday, but it declined to do so.

Instead, it formed a working group which will organise public audiences to hear specialist representations on the subject.

Some specialists are concerned that the legislation could imply a legal framework for religious persecution.

Homosexuality has been legal in Brazil since the 1830’s, except in the armed forces. Large areas of Brazil are now covered by state civil union laws and federal legislation may soon follow.

Last year, the Brazilian government sponsored a debate on GLBT rights at a Mercosur conference of ten South American nations.

The group, which represents the majority of the population and land area of South America, agreed to enshrine same-sex and transgender rights in all member states’ human rights legislation.