Europe’s first gay president took power in openly homophobic Latvia

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the politician Edgars Rinkevics became the declared homosexual president of the EU this Saturday after taking over the top job in Latvia, a country where very few gay men and lesbians in the country are fully open about their sexuality for fear of reprisals.

The country’s top diplomat since 2011, the 49-year-old will serve as the EU and NATO member nation’s head of state for the next four years after incumbent Egils Levits decided not to run for a second mandate

Rinkevics has a long career as Foreign Ministera position he has held since 2011, and will now serve as president of Latvia, a highly ceremonial position, albeit with the ability to veto legislation and call referendums.

Before becoming foreign minister, Rinkevics worked as a foreign news analyst at the public broadcaster Latvijas Radio and for the Ministry of Defense and the president’s office.

In the EU there were openly gay heads of government, such as the Belgian Prime Minister Elio di Rupo or the Luxembourger Xavier Bettel, but never a gay president, until now. Rinkevics came out as gay in 2014, when he was foreign minister, the first prominent political figure in his country to do so.

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In the tweet published in November of that year, the politician: “I proudly announce that I am gay… good luck to all.” “Our country has to create a legal status for all types of dating relationships, and I will fight for it. I know there will be mega hysteria soon, but #proudofbegay,” he added.

Since “coming out of the closet,” Rinkevics He was one of the main defenders of LGTBI+ rights. Same-sex marriage is illegal in Latvia and there is open hostility towards homosexuals throughout the country where they are often discriminated against, attacked on the streets or in meeting places.

In 2021, the case of Normunds Kindzulis, a medical assistant for the national ambulance service, who died after suffering severe burns caused by a homophobic attack, became world famous.

Many people in Latvia have prejudices against homosexuality, usually rooted in social conservatism and lingering preconceptions dating back to the Soviet period. That is why a Russian-style bill banning “gay propaganda” received broad support in previous years.

In Latvia, a former Soviet republic, governs a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in 2005, and very few gay men and lesbians in the country are open about their sexuality. Since last year, however, the Constitutional Court has recognized same-sex civil unions.

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He announced that he will work for “an inclusive and respectful society”

Rinkevics was elected by the Latvian parliament in May to the top state post after three rounds of voting and promised, in his inauguration speech, to continue supporting Ukraine in the war against Russia.

Latvian foreign policy “has no margin to make mistakes”, so it promised to act “quickly, decisively and wisely”. In addition, he called the youth to “break the glass ceiling” because inequality is a “major problem”.

“During my Presidency I will defend the creation of a modern and strong Latvia, a legal and fair Latvia, for the well-being of the people, for an inclusive and respectful society”, for which he has called on the citizens to “work together”. .

Despite being a primarily ceremonial post, the president of Latvia is considered the head of state and commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces.

He is also an important opinion leader who is in charge of uniting the nation’s political and social forces. Among other prerogatives, he can dissolve Parliament, appoint the prime minister and sign bills.

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