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World’s Second Gay PM is Belgian

World’s Second Gay PM is Belgian

Belgium has become the second country in the world to select an openly gay leader.

Elio Di Rupo will lead a government, ending 540 days of post-election brinksmanship between the parties of the Dutch-speaking north and French south.

He will lead a coalition of six parties.

Belgium went through eight attempts to mediate the political stalemate since the elections turned a right-wing separatist party, which wants Belgium to gradually “evaporate,” into the dominant force in the northern region, Flanders.

Flanders is home to Europe’s second-largest port and companies such as Anheuser-Busch InBev NV (ABI), the world’s largest brewer. It is considerably wealthier than the south, which suffers from post-industrial malaise.

Di Rupo is the son of Italian immigrants and has risen from poverty. He is known for wearing big red bow ties.

At the age of one, he lost his father in a car crash. Struggling to raise seven children, his illiterate mother gave some of them up to a nearby orphanage.

In 1996, he was falsely accused of having sex with underage boys, something which drove him to consider suicide if he had not been totally vindicated.

He told his biographer about being pursued down the street at the time by journalists yelling “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.”

Three years later, he was leading the Socialist Party and soon after became the leader of the southern Wallonia region.

Former Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt told the BBC:

Being the chief minister of a regional government is just a pastime compared with the hellish job of being prime minister of two different communities brought together.

You have to have very strong personal skills to bridge all rivalries. Di Rupo surely has the skills to be in command, otherwise he would not have succeeded in the most difficult negotiation ever.

But much will depend on his empathy for Flemish public opinion, which is extremely volatile.

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir has been the openly lesbian leader of Iceland since 2009. In Italy, the chief left-wing challenger for the Italian leadership is the self-described “gay, Catholic, communist” Nikki Vendola.


Related stories:

Italy’s Possible Next Gay Prime Minister: The Homophobia Builds

Today’s GLBT History Month Icon: Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir

‘Homophobic Riot’ By Kids Drives Out Lesbian Vice-Principal

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23 comments

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8:31AM PST on Dec 11, 2011

We are only on our second Gay Prime Minister? Seems like a long way to progress

1:03PM PST on Dec 7, 2011

Well, Michaela, you are right: It is important that he is up to the job. That remains to be seen, although his success in pulling together the coalition he will head is already an accomplishment. The fact that you "wouldn't even want to know" about a person's sexual orientation is perfectly all right - for you - but at this point in history it is important to the extent that it shows what same-sex-oriented persons can achieve. That might just help quell the virulent - and sometimes violent - anti-same-sex attitudes and cultures that persist. It also tells the people with whom Mr. Di Rupo will deal who it is that they are dealing with. It will give them the opportunity to be respectful consciously of someone's right to be who they are.

10:47AM PST on Dec 7, 2011

Bravo! Step by step we are hopefully reaching the day when this won't even be "news" anymore.

4:29AM PST on Dec 7, 2011

I look forward to the day when it will no longer be news that a gay, lesbian or transgender person has been appointed to this, that or the next office. Unfortunately the steps towards total equality are slow and often painful. This is why the appointment of Elio is still something to celebrate beyond his capacities as a politician.
Thom, I wish you were right about there being no more prejudice in Europe. Unfortunately, you're not.

2:39AM PST on Dec 7, 2011

Firstly this is not the second, it's the secondly openly gay PM as identified by you. We had a gay PM in England a few decades ago but not openly identified as such. Secondly this is not news in Europe, we don't care, there are lots of gay people in public life in Europe and we stopped being concerned about an individual's sexual preferences some time ago. The same applies to skin colour and religion. It is only in America, where racism and homophobia lurks just below the surface, that people care about this sort of thing. Move on...........

1:18AM PST on Dec 7, 2011

I wish you the best of luck Elio! Belgium...what a great country! My partner and I may retire there someday soon!

11:24PM PST on Dec 6, 2011

Anyone who can lead a country and hold a little lego man with a huge smile on his face is just , well, some kind of wonderful.

11:16PM PST on Dec 6, 2011

He just looks like a good guy! Not a typical self-important politico. Good luck to him. Belgium, an artificially created country, has a real dual personality with 1/2 being mainly French speaking (south) and the other 1/2 being mainly Dutch speaking (north), and beautiful Brussels a mixture. We love Belgium and Brussels. What a wonderful place! We hope they get their differences worked out and one thing that would help is everyone was bilingual, but it seems that the French speakers are far less likely to speak Dutch than the other way around. That causes more friction.

This last line in the article was hilarious: "challenger for the Italian leadership is the self-described “gay, Catholic, communist” Nikki Vendola". One would think you'd have to be on serious anti-depressives to be a gay Catholic communist. Or at least have a very good therapist! Only in Italy :)

5:52PM PST on Dec 6, 2011

May the spirit of all help you sir.

2:32PM PST on Dec 6, 2011

Good luck to him. The two communities have been encouraged to be suspicious of each other ffor so long, so I hope that this clearly honest guy can help to heal the wounds.

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