Brazilian governor and potential major party presidential candidate Eduardo Leite, a prominent critic of President Jair Bolsonaro, came out as gay in a TV interview.
Leite, governor of the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, would be the first openly gay presidential candidate in Brazil. Anti-gay rhetoric has been a staple of speeches by Bolsonaro, who once declared that if he had a gay son, he would rather the child died in an accident.
“I have never spoken about a subject related to my private life,” Leite told Brazilian journalist Pedro Bial in a TV interview on Thursday evening.
“But during this moment of low integrity in Brazil, I have nothing to hide, I am gay. I am a governor who is gay, not a gay governor, as former President Obama in the US was a president who was Black, not a Black president. And I am proud of that.”
Bolsonaro has called himself a “proud homophobe” and throughout his three decades in Brazilian politics he has bashed the LGBTQ community, denying accounts of increased violence calling them “sob stories”. In a 2013 interview, he said homosexuals recruit heterosexual children to fulfil their sexual desires and “no father would ever take pride in having a gay son”.
Leite tweeted his thanks to so many who had reached out to him after his announcement, with “messages of care and support” which “make me absolutely sure: love will conquer hate”.
As inúmeras mensagens de carinho e apoio que estou recebendo me deixam absolutamente seguro: o amor vai vencer o ódio! Muito muito muito obrigado a todos! ❤️
— Eduardo Leite (@EduardoLeite_) July 2, 2021
Leite, a member of the social democratic party PSDB, supported Bolsonaro in the second round of Brazil’s 2018 elections, but became a critic of the president’s management of the COVID pandemic.
Leite, 36, will be a candidate in the PSDB primaries scheduled for November to choose the presidential candidate for the 2022 elections. Other candidates in the primary are Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria, Senator Tasso Jereissati and former Senator Arthur Virgílio.
Bolsonaro on Friday told supporters Leite was trying to use his coming out as a “business card” for the presidential campaign.
“I have nothing against his private life, but he cannot impose his lifestyle on others,” he added.