BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) -- A Brazilian congressional human rights committee on Thursday approved legislation that would allow psychologists to treat homosexuality as a disorder or pathology.
The commission is led by evangelical pastor Marco Feliciano of the Social Christian Party, who has been accused of homophobia and enraged activists by calling AIDS a "gay cancer" in a tweet. His appointment as head the Commission for Human Rights and Minorities in the lower house of Brazil's Congress was fiercely opposed by gay and human rights groups.
The measure approved Tuesday seeks to lift a prohibition on psychologists treating homosexuality that was established by the Federal Psychology Council. The ban has been in effect since 1999.
"In practice, (the initiative's) result would be that a person over 18 years of age, responsible for his actions, who is homosexual and wants to reorient his sexuality, can be attended by a psychologist," said lawmaker Joao Campos, a member of the evangelical bloc of Brazil's lower house.
Feliciano had tried for weeks to put the "gay cure" initiative before the commission but had failed as opponents maneuvered to block a vote. The initiative was passed Tuesday amid a low turnout by commission members.
The psychologists' council had called on commission members to vote against it.
"Today psychology, as wells as other scientific disciplines, recognize that sexual orientation is not a pathology that should be treated, it is not a perversion nor a disorder nor a behavioral disturbance. Since this is the case, we cannot offer a cure, and that is an ethical principle," said council member Huberto Verona.
The initiative still must be debated by other committees before going to the full Chamber of Deputies and the Senate for votes.
Jean Wyllys, Brazil's first openly gay lawmaker, expressed confidence the initiative would not make it through the legislative process.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.