Peru's First Out Lawmaker Shakes Up Discussion on LGBT Rights

After coming out this weekend in a popular national publication, Carlos Bruce looks to change the way LGBT people are perceived in the largely conservative nation of Peru.

BY Thom Senzee

May 28 2014 3:24 PM ET

Carlos Bruce via YouTube

It's been less than a week since Peruvian congressman Carlos Bruce, came out as gay in an interview, which appeared Sunday in prominent national newspaper El Comercio, but the popular lawmaker may already be changing the way some of Peru's elected officials view the issue of LGBT equality.

The congressman's own views about the potential benefit of coming out compared to the likely cost of doing so in deeply Catholic Peru appear to have changed dramatically in recent months. 

Just last December, Bruce told BuzzFeed's J. Lester Feder that coming out of the closet would be "political suicide" for any Peruvian politician. 

"If I can imagine a politician saying he’s openly gay, for sure he [would lose] 80% of his voters,” Bruce told BuzzFeed late last year, adding that any politician in Peru who outed himself could all but forget about running for higher office.

But in a new piece published Sunday on BuzzFeed, Feder quotes Bruce, whose great popularity is traceable at least in part to his past work heading up Peru’s housing ministry, as saying that coming out could "be a good thing for higher public office." 

Since coming out, Bruce reasons that being openly gay may actually be a boon to his political career, because voters may admire him for claiming the courage of his convictions.

"One thing that everybody is saying here — even the people who are against me — 'I don’t like this guy, but I have to say he has courage,'" Bruce told BuzzFeed. That pursuit of authenticity apparently inspired the politician to recently divulge to Peru's Diario Correo that he has a long-term partner whom he would marry if he could legally do so. 

The potential shift in tone sparked by Bruce's new visibility has already impacted some of his fellow legislators, according to the GlobalPost.

Martha Chavez, who reportedly criticized the congressman for introducing a civil unions bill from which she claimed Bruce would personally benefit, is nevertheless considering supporting the legislation, which is opposed by a staggering 61 percent of Peruvians, according to a recent poll

"Even Martha Chavez, who made the fuss about conflict of interest, says she’s not ruling out the possibility that she might, just might, actually vote in favor of [Bruce’s civil unions bill]," notes GlobalPost.

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