August 27, 2014 / 11:24 PM / 4 years ago

Breaking taboo in conservative Chile, armed forces member says, 'I'm gay'

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chilean active Navy serviceman Mauricio Ruiz became the first openly gay member of the nation’s armed forces on Wednesday, accepting the government’s recently launched campaign to help integrate homosexuals into the military.

Though one of the Latin America’s most economically advanced countries, Chile is also socially conservative.

Divorce was only legalized about a decade ago, abortion remains completely outlawed, and an anti-discrimination law was just put on the books in 2012 following the public’s outrage with the brutal beating and death of a young gay man.

“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 said in a televised news conference.

“I hope this helps in anti-discrimination (efforts) because we can work in anything and we should be respected,” he added.

Ruiz’s comments were authorized by Chile’s Navy following a “long process” of dialogue with his superiors and come as center-left President Michelle Bachelet pushes a progressive policy agenda.

Reporting by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Ken Wills

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