BRASILIA, Brazil – The Commission for Human Rights and Minorities of the lower house of Brazil's Congress has banned the presence of outsiders from its sessions to keep out protesters demanding the resignation of its president, evangelical pastor Marco Feliciano.
The decision to hold closed sessions was taken Wednesday night.
Critics say that statements made by Congressman Feliciano of the Christian Social Party show that he is homophobic and racist. Feliciano was elected to head the commission last month.
On his Twitter page, Feliciano recently said that AIDS was a "gay cancer" and that Africa has been "cursed since the times of Noah," which explains the poverty, violence and disease afflicting that continent.
Feliciano denies being homophobic or a racist and has said he would not resign.
"I am not homophobic," Feliciano said in a recent sermon. "I am against their promiscuity. I don't want my daughters to go out on the streets and see men with shaved legs kissing each other. The Brazilian family must be respected."
Avaaz, the U.S.-based group that campaigns on various issues, from promoting democracy to fighting poverty, corruption and climate change, said Feliciano should step down.
"Feliciano has proved repeatedly that he is inappropriate for this post. His last move to kick people out of the House is unprecedented. Democracy has been suspended at the Human Rights Commission and the Christian Social Party must give him marching orders now," the group said Thursday in an email .
Celebrities have also come out against Feliciano.
On Wednesday, actor Bruno Gagliasso posted on Instagram a photo of him kissing fellow actor Matheus Nachtergaele, and on his Twitter page he wrote: "The less you know the more you judge."
Also on Wednesday, Daniel Mercury, one of Brazil's most popular singers told the G1 news website that she was in a lesbian relationship with journalist Malu Vercosa and added "I am in love with Malu, with Brazil, with individual freedoms. We cannot ignore the conquests we have achieved. We cannot walk backward like the Felicianos of the world.'