Latvia swears in EU’s first openly gay president

Edgars Rinkevics, in a gray suit and blue tie, looks off to the left at a camera.

Latvia has become the first EU nation with an openly gay head of state after swearing in Edgars Rinkēvičs.

The former foreign minister was sworn in as president of Latvia during a ceremony in Riga on Saturday (8 July) following his election win earlier in 2023.

In his inaugural speech, Rinkēvičs vowed to help Latvians “break the glass ceiling”, adding that inequality had become a “significant problem” in the Baltic country.

“During my presidency, I will stand up for the creation of a modern and strong Latvia, for a legal and just Latvia, for the wellbeing of the people, for an inclusive and respectful society,” Rinkēvičs said.

“It is possible for all of us to achieve this by working together.”

Same-sex marriage is currently illegal in Latvia. Civil unions are permitted but don’t allow for certain rights that heterosexual couples are afforded through marriage, such as adoption rights or joint property ownership.

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Elsewhere in his speech, the 49-year-old politician reaffirmed his support for Ukraine and vowed to continue his work supporting the country as foreign minister.

While head of state is mostly a ceremonial position, Rinkēvičs will have the ability to veto legislation and call referendums.

The president also represents Latvia abroad, acts as the supreme commander of the armed forces, and has the ability to nominate a prime minister.

The only other openly gay head of state ever to be elected was Paolo Rondelli, the captain regent of San Marino, a non-EU state, from April to October 2022.

Other EU member states have had openly LGBTQ+ heads of government, including Belgium, Ireland and Luxembourg.

Belgian politician Elio Di Rupo became the EU’s first openly gay head of government after being elected prime minister in 2011.

Rinkēvičs came out as gay  in November 2014 while minister of foreign affairs, posting on Twitter: “I proudly announce I am gay … Good luck all of you.”

He has since signalled his support for the legalisation of same-sex marriage, as well as the improvement of LGBTQ+ rights in the country, multiple times.

The ILGA Europe 2023 Rainbow Map and Index rates Latvia 37th out of 49 countries and 24th out of the 27 EU member states.

The nonprofit group recommended that government officials adopt a bill recognising same-sex partnerships and cohabitations and introduce hate crime and speech policies that “explicitly cover all bias-motivated crimes based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics”.

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