A ban imposed nearly thirty-five years ago in Uruguay, which denied gays the right to serve in the military, has been lifted. The ban did now allow people with “open sexual deviations” to attend military academies.

Implemented during the country’s military dictatorship from 1973-85, the restrictions included homosexuality among the “mental illnesses and disorders” that legally made a person unsuitable to join the armed forces.

A decree signed by President Tabaré Vázquez and Defense Minister José Bayardi has now ordered sexual orientation to no longer be considered a reason to prevent people from entering the military, the president’s website stated on Friday.

Vázquez said that his administration will not discriminate against citizens on the basis of ethnicity, political beliefs or sexual orientation.

Uruguay’s Congress passed legislation to recognise same-sex civil unions in December 2007, making it the first South American country to do so.

The legislation created a civil union registry for same-sex and unmarried heterosexual couples who have lived together for at least five years, giving them the same rights as marriage, such as health benefits, inheritance, parenting and pension rights.

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