Latvia elects Edgars Rinkevics as president – the first openly gay head of state in Europe
Latvia has elected a new president – making history the first openly gay head of state in Europe.
The country’s parliament elected Edgars Rinkēvičs to be its next president, Reuters reported prime minister Krišjānis Kariņš saying.
Rinkēvičs has spent a long time in Latvian politics, serving as the country’s minister of foreign affairs since 2011, and worked in the civil service before that.
In a statement on social media, he said he was honoured and humbled to have been elected.
He added: “I will do my best to serve the people of Latvia well. I thank members of parliament for their trust.”
Rinkēvičs publicly came out as gay in November 2014, posting on Twitter: “I proudly announce I am gay… Good luck all of you.”
In a second tweet at the time, he spoke about improving the legal status of same-sex relationships, saying Latvia needed to create a legal framework for all kinds of partnerships.
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He signed off with the hashtag #Proudtobegay.
Since then, same-sex marriage has still not been recognised in the northern European nation, but civil unions have been possible since last year.
Rinkēvičs rebutted rumours of any “hidden agenda” in coming out.
“I do not believe that something fundamental should change in people’s attitude toward me or other people,” he said in a radio interview. “It is time for us to be more open and honest. Believe me, such decisions are not easy to make and can take a long time.
“I contemplated all the positive and negative consequences that may arise due to my decision, and decided that it is better to be honest and to speak frankly, as well as to urge a discussion about these matters, including registration of partnerships, which is a complicated topic.”
Haven’t there been other openly gay leaders in Europe?
There have been other openly gay people elected to positions of power in their countries but as prime minister rather than president, including Ireland’s Leo Varadkar, Luxembourg’s Xavier Bettel, and Serbia’s Ana Brnabić.
Unlike in the US, the position of president is much more ceremonial in many countries. But he does have some executive powers and represents the country internationally.
A lot of countries have prime ministers (or other head of government) and heads of state. For example, in the UK the head of state is King Charles (he is too for many Commonwealth countries, but some opt for a governor-general to act as his representative).
The US is one of few countries not to have someone in a prime minister-like position.
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