Uruguay inducted its first transgender senator Tuesday, a landmark decision for the largely Catholic conservative South American country.
Transgender Michelle Suarez assumed his seat in Uruguay’s chamber of commerce and will represent the interests of the country’s communist party, according to ABC News.
“Uruguay has evolved, but it’s still a discriminatory country,” Suarez told ABC. He is seeking to change the law so that transgender people don’t have to get approval from a judge to change their legal identities.
He’s made it clear that he aims to push a labor law which will mandate that at least 1 percent of all the country’s government jobs be reserved for transgender people. Suarez also intends to use his new legal power to advocate for a pension that will compensate all transgender people in the country that were persecuted during Uruguay’s military dictatorship from 1973 to 1985.
Suarez hopes that he will be able to promote and pass legislation in Uruguay similar to laws that neighboring country Argentina adopted in 2012, allowing people to legally change their gender identity without judicial or medical approval.
Suarez was the first transgender Uruguayan to earn a university law degree, and he became a vocal activist soon after. He even helped create the bill that legalized gay marriage in 2013.
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