The struggle over LGBT rights in Peru has taken an ugly personal turn, with the leader of the country's Catholic Church accusing a popular politician of pushing for civil union legislation in order to "justify his [sexual] orientation."
Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, leader of Peru's Catholic church, slammed Congressman Carlos Bruce's decision to introduce the legislation on Thursday, along with other members of his legislative bloc.
"It doesn't seem to me that we have named congressmen in order to justify their own [sexual] preference," Cardinal Cipriani said during a Saturday TV appearance on RPP Noticias.
Cipriani also argued that civil union legislation was a trojan horse for same-sex marriage and was unnecessary because "he who wants to have his relationship [already] has civil rights to make his contract [with his partner]." Civil unions, he said, make a "caricature of marriage" that will ultimately "shatter" the institution.
Cipriani's comments have caused a firestorm because they weren't aimed at just any legislator. Bruce is widely popular, thanks to his role in creating a housing program while in the cabinet of former President Alejandro Toledo. In 2011, Toledo picked Bruce as his vice presidential nominee and campaign manager. Though their ticket lost (and he has since had an ugly falling-out with Toledo), Bruce was reelected to Congress with one of the highest margins of victory of any member of the country's legislature.
Though Peru is one of the South American countries most hostile to LGBT people, Bruce has been able to preserve his popularity while being one of the leading lawmakers championing LGBT rights. Last year he sponsored unsuccessful legislation to give same-sex couples shared property rights, and also attempted to get protections for LGBT people included in hate crimes legislation introduced earlier this year. In the middle of the presidential campaign, Bruce recorded a video for the Peruvian version of the It Gets Better Campaign, Todo Mejora.
Bruce has responded to Cipriani's attempt to make an issue of his personal life by saying, "I regret that … [the cardinal] is bringing up personal matters … I will not answer such vileness."
Such responses have worked to deflect rumors about Bruce's sexuality that have followed him throughout his political career. But Cardinal Cipriani's words appear to have opened the floodgates.
On Sunday, the tabloid La Razón — where Bruce has been a columnist — ran a front page headline that declared, "Cipriani pulls Bruce out of the closet."
Bruce responded with an angry letter announcing his "irrevocable decision" to stop writing for the publication, which he publicized via a tweet in all caps.
MI RENUNCIA COMO COLUMNISTA DEL DIARIO LA RAZON.... http://t.co/Aiiw1T3qiz— Carlos Bruce (@Carlos_Bruce) September 16, 2013
Watch Carlos Bruce's video for Peru's version of It Gets Better, Todo Mejora [in Spanish].
J. Lester Feder is a BuzzFeed contributor and 2013 Alicia Patterson journalism fellow.