As It Happens

This gay city councillor is taking over for a congressman who fled Brazil in fear of his life

As one openly gay Brazilian congressman is driven out of the country, another has stepped up to take his place.

David Miranda will step in for Jean Wyllys, who left Brazil after receiving death threats

David Miranda will fill the seat of Socialism and Liberty Party seat of Jean Wyllys in Brazil's legislature. (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

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As one openly gay Brazilian congressman is driven out of the country, another has stepped up to take his place.

David Miranda, a Rio de Janeiro city councillor, will fill the vacancy left by Jean Wyllys, the Socialism and Liberty Party congressman who stepped down Thursday and announced he would live abroad because he and his family were facing death threats. 

Wyllys said the climate of violence in Brazil has worsened since the October election of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who has made hateful comments about gay people and used an executive order to target LBGT human rights protections on his first day in office.

But Miranda, who is married to Intercept journalist Glenn Greenwald, says he's confident he can fight for his community under Bolsonaro's government.

Here is part of his conversation with As It Happens host Carol Off. 

As you know, the man you are going to replace, Jean Wyllys, he says he's leaving his office, his job, because he's afraid for his life. Why would you want to take that job?

I came from the favelas and I'm black, LGBT and people vote for me expecting me to be taking that stand.

Obviously, I'm afraid for my life or what can happen to my family, but in moments like this you have to be brave, even with the fear that becomes courage.

People need a voice in Brazil and I know that I can do the job.

Wyllys fled the country for an undisclosed location, telling the Folha newspaper: 'I want to take care of myself and stay alive.' (Mauro Pimentel/AFP/Getty Images)

I know that you are already feeling a lot of threats because you were in the city council of Rio, where your fellow city council member who is openly gay, Marielle Franco, was shot dead by an assassin, someone trained to kill people. So you're no stranger to this kind of intimidation, but do you think it's going to get worse for you now?

I take matters for my safety and the safety of my family, but, as you know, Brazil is one of the countries who most kill human rights activists.

So it is going to be dark times, but I will go forward ... not just for me, but for all the people who come from the favelas where I used to live. My family's still there. My friends [are] still there.

[Bolsonaro] has said he would like to do violence against gay people. He said that he'd rather his son were killed in a car accident than to be gay. And one of the first things he did as president was to remove the LGBT community from groups who are covered by the country's human rights ministry. How much worse has it become for people in the LGBTQ community in Brazil since the election of President Bolsonaro?

It's become worse. There's a lot of violent attacks against the LGBT population. There's more deaths than [there] ever was. ... The trans community are being slaughtered every day.

And when you have a president elected that doesn't represent us, saying openly that he's against not only the LGBT community, but also against the human rights activists, that gives strength to a lot of people to do things in his name, on his behalf, to harm us.

We are made of resistance. LGBTs are kicked out from the home, usually the ones who get spanked and bullied in school. So we are made of resistance. So I will be one of the voices for resistance in the Congress. 

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is known for spewing hateful rhetoric against gay people, including: 'If I see two men kissing in the street, I will hit them.' (Getty Images)

You had a lot of goals for what you wanted to do for the community. But what can you actually do now in the government of President Bolsonaro? What what can you realistically accomplish?

I'm not saying that's going to be easy. That's going to be hard work, but I'm completely willing and have the strength and the ability and the confidence that I'm going to be able to have a dialogue with most people in the House.

Can you have a dialogue with President Bolsonaro?

I was elected to have a dialogue and pass laws. If I have to have a dialogue with him, I will be having a dialogue because this is my job to be doing this. 

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from Associated Press. Interview produced Chris Harbord with files from Allie Jaynes. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.