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Venezuela's first transgender candidate to run for Congress

CARACAS (Reuters) - The first transgender politician to run for popular election in Venezuela on Friday registered as candidate for Congress as part of the opposition bloc, promising to advance gay rights in the traditionally macho South American society.

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Lawyer and gay rights activist Tamara Adrian had to register under her given name Thomas Adrian despite a 2002 sex change, because Venezuelan law does not allow anyone born male to legally become female or take a woman’s name.

“We’re going to fight so that everyone gets respect,” said Adrian, amid a tussle of candidates and cheering supporters at the gates of an elections authority office in Caracas.

Adrian is running with the opposition party Voluntad Popular, which includes some of the most outspoken critics of President Nicolas Maduro. Two gay candidates are also running with Voluntad Popular.

She argued that Venezuela, along with Paraguay, Guyana, Suriname and Peru, has done little to extend equal rights to homosexuals.

Venezuela’s National Assembly, controlled by the ruling Socialist Party, has not opened a debate on legislation proposed by gay activists that would legalize same-sex marriage.

It was not immediately evident if the electoral council will register Adrian as a woman. The council in June said at least 40 percent of candidates in the Dec. 6 vote would have to be women.

The election is shaping up to be the Socialist Party’s most difficult since late President Hugo Chavez took office in 1999 on promises of launching a revolution. Inflation believed to be in triple digits, a severe recession and chronic product shortages have left anti-government sentiment at a record high.

Maduro in May said the Socialist Party would have gay candidates.

But socialist gay rights activist Leandro Viloria said the government’s Patriotic Axis coalition does not include any candidates from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) movement. One of the three LGBT candidates who aspired to the socialist ticket was transgender activist Rummie Quintero.

“The revolution did not represent sexual diversity,” said Viloria, who aspired to run as part of the government coalition. “That demonstrates that prejudices prevail.”

The Socialist Party has come under pressure from Evangelical Christians who oppose gay marriage.

Evangelicals, who have become increasingly influential over the last decade even though the country is overwhelmingly Catholic, marched to Congress this week to protest the proposed gay marriage legislation.

Writing by Brian Ellsworth and Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Richard Chang