SANTIAGO, Chile — A sailor with Chile’s navy on Wednesday announced he is gay, an unprecedented public declaration in this socially conservative South American nation.
Chile has traditionally been a tough place for homosexuals, although the country decriminalized gay sex in 1999 and attitudes toward gays are evolving. The killing of a gay man in Chile 2012 set off a national debate that prompted Congress to pass a hate crimes law.
At a press conference Wednesday, 24-year-old sailor Mauricio Ruiz told reporters he hoped the public disclosure about his sexuality will help dispel myths that gays can’t be effective members of Chile’s armed forces.
“Personally, I hope that this is a contribution to non-discrimination in my society,” he said.
Ruiz, who is stationed at a port in Valparaiso, said his navy superiors granted permission for him to make his disclosure publicly.
While the gay-rights movement has achieved major victories in some South American nations, homosexuals remain targets of violence and harassment in parts of Central America and the Caribbean.
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