A Chilean sailor has made history by becoming the first serving member of the country’s armed forces to announce he is gay.
Speaking at a press conference in the nation’s capital Santiago, Mauricio Ruiz told reporters that although his decision had “not been easy” he wanted to fight LGB discrimination.
“We can do anything, be marines or in any branch (of the military). We can do whatever profession, and we deserve as much respect as anyone else,” the 24 year-old told reporters.
“In life there’s nothing better than to be yourself, to be authentic, to look at people in the eye and for those people to know who you are.”
Ruiz’s announcement was supported by the Chilean armed forces, reports the BBC.
The announcement marks a gradual softening in attitudes towards homosexuals in the South American country, spurred by the brutal murder of a gay man, Daniel Zamudio, in 2012. The murder – for which four men were jailed in 2013 – sparked a national debate about hate crimes and led to the introduction of a law making discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, appearance or disability a crime.
Earlier this Chilean President Michelle Bachelet indicated her support for gay marriage although the majority of Chileans currently oppose it.
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