03/10/2014 06:12 pm ET Updated Mar 10, 2014

Prohibiting Gay Marriage 'Tortures People Needlessly,' Says Weed-Legalizing President

MARTIN BERNETTI via Getty Images

While Uruguay’s president grabbed international headlines for legalizing the government-controlled production and sale of weed to registered users, Mujica also presided over the legalization of abortion and gay marriage over the last two years.

In an interview with Brazilian news agency O Globo published Sunday, Mujica explained his administration’s logic.

“We applied a very simple principle: recognize the facts,” Mujica said, according to O Globo. “Gay marriage, please -- it’s older than the world. We had Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, please. To say it’s modern, come on, it’s older than we are. It’s an objective reality that it exists. For us, not legalizing it would be to torture people needlessly.”

Uruguay became the third country in the Western hemisphere, after Canada and Argentina, to legalize gay marriage last year. The reform, backed by Mujica’s leftwing Broad Front, created one set of rules for all couples, replacing the words “husband and wife” with terms “contracting parties” for legal purposes, according to the Associated Press.

All couples may adopt children under the Uruguayan law.

Mujica has garnered international attention for both his pioneering reforms and his austere lifestyle. The former guerrilla who spent 14 years in prison during Uruguay’s military dictatorship donates 90 percent of his salary to charity and lives on a flower farm outside the capital of Montevideo with his wife and three-legged dog Manuela.

His supporters have nominated him for a Nobel Peace Prize, citing Uruguay's unprecedented legalization of the marijuana trade, a move Mujica says was aimed at wresting power away from drug cartels.



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