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Belgium to Swear in EU's First Openly Gay Prime Minister, Elio di Rupo

On Tuesday, Belgium will swear in the Euroipean Union's first openly gay Prime Minister, French-speaking socialist Elio Di Rupo:

DirupoDi Rupo, the first Francophone premier in 32 years for the divided nation, will take office as a new Socialist leader among a group of European governments dominated by the center-right.

Di Rupo was due to meet King Albert II Monday evening to give him the names of Belgium's new cabinet ministers, according to people familiar with the matter. According to local press reports, the cabinet will comprise 13 members including Di Rupo. Longstanding finance minister Didier Reynders will be moving to foreign affairs and Steven Vanackere, from the centrist Flemish liberal party, moving to finance.

"My first words are for the citizens" Di Rupo said last week, as he set out the new government's plans, including public sector cuts and new taxes, last week. "I want to thank them for their patience ... together, we need to roll up our sleeves and get this country out of crisis."

A BBC profile on Di Rupo describes his public coming out:

Mr Di Rupo, a homosexual, found his own love life suddenly under scrutiny in 1996 when he was falsely accused of having had sex with under-age males. According to Van de Woestyne, Mr Di Rupo admits that he might have killed himself had he not been totally vindicated in the affair.

Speaking to the author of Elio Di Rupo, A Life, A Vision (French: Elio Di Rupo. Une vie, une vision), he recalled being pursued down the street by a media pack and how one journalist had exclaimed "Yet they say you're a homosexual!"

"I turned around and shot back: 'Yes. So what?' I will never forget that moment... For several seconds there was silence... People were so surprised by my reply they stopped jostling each other. It was a sincere, truthful reply."

His career did not appear to suffer. Three years later, Mr Di Rupo was leader of the Socialist Party and, shortly afterwards, became regional prime minister of Wallonia.

Di Rupo is not the world's first out gay leader. In February 2009, Johanna Sigurdardottir, an out lesbian, became the Prime Minister of Iceland.

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Comments

  1. For a second there, I thought it was Linda Hunt.

    Kudos to the Belgians.

    Posted by: The Milkman | Dec 5, 2011 3:04:27 PM


  2. Wow, I didn't even know he was running. Europe would have had two gay PM's and one gay President if David Morris had won in Ireland.

    Posted by: Gregv | Dec 5, 2011 3:56:30 PM


  3. Just one (snarky) comment: why is it the majority of gay politicians look silly gay? Lovely 'do, big bow tie, fashionista glasses? Why can't we get a gay politician who looks more like David Beckham in a three-piece Pierre Cardin? Just sayin...

    Posted by: OS2Guy | Dec 5, 2011 4:48:36 PM


  4. I'm just happy that Belgium finally has a government. It's been almost two years since the country had a duly elected government in power.

    On his being gay, Europeans think differently. They, as a general rule, are not absorbed by Christian hate. It's the person that matters, not their sexual orientation.

    Another point is that in Europe, unlike the United States, there is actually social mobility. Di Rupo was born to Italian immigrants from the Abruzio and grew up in poverty. His mother was illiterate. This sort of story is possible in Europe and impossible in the United States.

    Posted by: Charles Lemos | Dec 5, 2011 4:52:43 PM


  5. Charlses: Check the biography of the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, John Boehner, if you think that social mobility in the US is impossible.

    From Wikipedia: He grew up in modest circumstances, having shared one bathroom with his eleven siblings in a two-bedroom house in Cincinnati. His parents slept on a pull-out couch. He started working at his family's bar at age 8, a business founded by their grandfather Andy Boehner in 1938. He has lived in Southwest Ohio his entire life. All but two of his siblings still live within a few miles of each other; two are unemployed and most of the others have blue-collar jobs.

    Posted by: AG | Dec 5, 2011 5:31:59 PM


  6. "...Europeans think differently. They, as a general rule, are not absorbed by Christian hate"

    @ charles: this quote would apply only AFTER 1945...right?

    Posted by: Myackie | Dec 5, 2011 6:02:51 PM


  7. Dear OS2GUY,

    Thanks for keeping it green by giving us today's dose of internalized homophobia.

    Sincerely,

    Danny

    Posted by: Danny | Dec 5, 2011 6:05:12 PM


  8. "This sort of story is possible in Europe and impossible in the United States."

    Are you kidding? Actually the exact opposite is true.

    Um, ever heard of Oprah Winfrey? President Barack Obama? These two individuals are entirely self made and came from poor backgrounds and overcame adversity.

    Silliest comment of the day.

    Posted by: Brian in Texas | Dec 5, 2011 6:19:27 PM


  9. @ Brian in Texas: This story IS INDEED impossible in the US right now. Maybe this will change in the future, but the simple fact that roughly half of the country consistently votes for the Republicans, a political party that consistently hurts gay people, demonstrates how difficult/impossible it would be to elect an openly lgb president. I mean, we haven't even had an openly gay senator or governor before. Race and sexual orientation are not treated in the same manner by American society.

    The US is a developed country with a developing country mentality.

    Posted by: Brian B. | Dec 5, 2011 7:00:16 PM


  10. The way European political institutions and structures are set up [often making it possible for 'fringe' politicians and parties to have a seat at the table when forming governments out of MANY political parties] is what makes something like this possible. This man wasn't directly voted for like a U.S. president, he's head of a political party that's forming a government after 2 years of chaos and virtual civil war [between the Dutch and French speakers that make up Belgium]. By hook n crook this socialist party has gained enough seats in parliament [with junior partners I assume] to form a government, and again, because this gentleman is the head of this party, he becomes PM. Belgium citizens [those who bothered to vote] didn't directly elect a gay PM, it just turned out this way.

    FYI: Belgium is kind of the laughing-stock of Europe; they get little respect, and are frequently mocked.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Dec 5, 2011 8:17:58 PM


  11. He's not the first gay prime minister in Europe. Iceland's prime minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir is openly gay and has a partner.

    Posted by: Erich | Dec 5, 2011 8:20:20 PM


  12. Crap, the article mentioned her. That's what I get for not reading the entire thing. I get it now, EU vs Europe. My bad.

    Posted by: Erich | Dec 5, 2011 8:22:40 PM


  13. @OS2GUY: when I think randomly of gay politicians, a lot of people come to mind, including mayors (of Berlin, of Paris, of Holyoke, Mass.), locally- and regionally elected US politicians like Tammy Baldwin and Jared Polis and Rancho Mirage's Scott Hines (whose looks and style could rival any Hollywood leading man's), Fred Karger, several Canadians who've been serious contenders for regional or national leadership, and the Prime Minister of Iceland, etc., etc.
    I fail to see any trend of clownish, silly clothes among them.
    I'd agree that this guy looks like he could stand to take some fashion tips from Obama if he wants to look convey a more serious look. But he
    isn't running for a fashion council position. And his colors, hairstyle and tie are surely not a trend among gay politicians in general.

    @Erich: I got thrown off by the headline, too. I guess I'd forgotten that Iceland has only discussed getting into the EU, but has never fully been admitted.

    Posted by: Gregv | Dec 5, 2011 9:29:29 PM


  14. @ Brian B

    I think we are talking past each other. I wasn't referring to his orientation. I was referring to Charles saying that Elio's being from a disadvantaged background and rising to become Prime Minister was only possible in Europe and not the U.S.(i.e. Oprah, Barack Obama, Condoleeza Rice, MLK, etc.)

    I agree with you that Europe is WAY ahead of the U.S. with regards to LGB citizens being accepted in high roles of government and business.

    Posted by: Brian in Texas | Dec 5, 2011 10:25:32 PM


  15. @ratbastard: "...those who bothered to vote..."
    euhm,... we are obliged to vote, it is required by law

    Posted by: bolobol | Dec 7, 2011 3:11:19 PM


  16. @ratbastard: "... government after 2 years of chaos and virtual civil war [between the Dutch and French speakers that make up Belgium]": It looks like you don't really know what you're talking about. Besides the constant bickering between the Dutch and French speakers, there has been no violence whatsoever. Protests included people letting their beards grow until there was a government and the 1st anniversary of the elections was greeted with stripping people and streetparties with beer and free French (or Belgian) fries. Maybe we're the laughing stock of Europe, but if we have to have a civil war, I think I prefer the one with the beer and fries... (and stripping people)

    Posted by: An | Dec 8, 2011 9:31:41 AM


  17. This is a great tip, thanks a lot.

    Posted by: longchamp le pliage | Dec 9, 2011 3:35:25 AM


  18. "Virtual civil war"? Nowhere near.
    No blood was shed whatsoever, only copious amounts ink.

    And even the ink-shedding was rather civil in general compared to your US politics: while there were indeed words, nothing that approaches the insults your politicians casually throw at each other.

    It took a long time, but a major governemental reform took place; one where a 2/3rds majority was needed.
    You try to get Obama and Bachmann to agree on constitutional reform and we'll see if it doesn't take more than a year.

    Posted by: Belgiancitizen | Jan 7, 2012 6:35:46 PM


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