WASHINGTON - The tech world's worst-kept secret came out in the open yesterday - Apple chief executive Tim Cook is gay.
Mr Cook revealed his sexual orientation publicly and said that fighting for equality is at the core of his personal and business ethos.
The head of the technology giant said his sexuality has never been a secret at his company, but acknowledging his homosexuality as a public statement about equality was "more important" than his privacy.
"Let me be clear: I'm proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me," Mr Cook said in a statement in Bloomberg Businessweek.
"I've had the good fortune to work at a company that loves creativity and innovation and knows it can only flourish when you embrace people's differences. Not everyone is so lucky."
Mr Cook is at least the third CEO of a publicly listed American company to come out of the closet. C1 Financial's Trevor Burgess and IGI Laboratories' Jason Grenfell-Gardner have previously acknowledged that they are gay.
Mr Cook's disclosure was greeted by a flood of congratulatory comments on Twitter.
"I have so much respect for this man," a person identifying himself as Andrew Clarke tweeted.
Apple chairman Art Levinson called Mr Cook "courageous".
"(His) decision to speak out will help advance the cause of equality and inclusion far beyond the business world," Mr Levinson was quoted by CNBC as saying. "On behalf of the board and our entire company, we are incredibly proud to have Tim leading Apple."
Mr Cook said coming out was part of his personal fight to stand up for minorities, a value he said his company also embraces.
"Part of social progress is understanding that a person is not defined only by one's sexuality, race or gender," he said.
"Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day.
"We'll continue to fight for our values, and I believe that any CEO of this incredible company, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation, would do the same.
"And I will personally continue to advocate for equality for all people until my toes point up."
Apple has a long history of supporting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
The company recently criticised an Arizona Bill that would permit businesses to refuse service on religious grounds, a measure that critics said could allow discrimination against gay people.
Mr Cook said being gay was only part of his identity, and described himself as "an engineer, an uncle, a nature lover, a fitness nut, a son of the South, a sports fanatic and many other things".
He said he is inspired by civil rights champions Martin Luther King Jr and Robert Kennedy, whose portraits hang in his office.