A month after Ecuador's presidential elections, the Electoral Litigation Court stripped former presidential candidate Nelson Zavala of all political rights for saying publicly that homosexuals can change.
The evangelical pastor, who represented the Rolodista Party in last February's elections, may not vote or serve in any public office for an entire year. The court also fined Zavala over $3,000 for his comments about homosexuals.
The Ecuadorian electoral code "forbids candidates from publicly expressing any thoughts that discriminate, affect other people's dignity, or utilize symbols, expressions or allusions of a religious nature," BBC News reported.
"This landmark case in the history of the country should cause the Ecuadorian people to reflect on fundamentalist and reactionary public discourse," Gloria Vidal Asst. Minister of Education:
According to the prosecution, Zavala spoke against the community of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders, transsexuals and transvestites. Here's what he said in a television interview.
"When the government is incapable of solving the problem of homosexuality, it simply legalizes it. . . .as Christians with 112 years of history in Ecuador, and 2,000 years on earth, we have shown over and over that homosexuality can be changed. Today, in our churches there are pastors who used to be homosexuals," Zavala said.
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.
The candidate's sentencing prompted celebrations in the homosexual community.
Meanwhile, the evangelical politician also faces a possible prison sentence of up to three years for hate crimes.
"Full protection is granted to minority groups, but we are seeing that somehow they are not being totally fair to us, the representatives of the church in our country," Pastor Jose Romero, an evangelical representative, said.
Zavala plans to appeal his conviction.