Germany Poised for First Openly Gay Foreign Minister
Following elections this past weekend, openly gay Guido Westerwelle is poised to become the Foreign Minister of Germany, which is the equivalent to the U.S. Secretary of State. Westerwelle, head of the minority Free Democrats Party, has a reputation for being an "exhibitionist," however, it is his partner Michael Mronz, or rather, the fact that he actually has a same-sex partner that has been garnering the most attention. According to the Bild daily newspaper, “His man makes him so strong.” Indeed, the 48-year-old Westerwelle credits his 42-year-old partner with providing him security and support. Others worry that the couple's sexual orientation and its attendant publicity will undermine the security and support of Germany within the international community. Pundits are anticipating chilly relations if not outright snubbing by leaders and diplomats from nations with anti-gay laws like Iran.
“It’s not going to be boring,” said Angela Merkel, who was re-elected Chancellor and whose Christian Democrat party will form a coalition government with Westerwelle's Free Democrats. According to the Times of London, former classmates of the soon-to-be foreign minister have said that Westerwelle can be a polarizing force in debate and likes to be the center of attention. He famously appeared on the German version of the reality TV show Big Brother. He also came out very publicly in 2004 when he brought his partner Mronk to Chancellor Merkel's 50th birthday party. “We are about to get a real exhibitionist as the Deputy Chancellor of Germany,” a colleague told the Times. “There’s no chance of us sleep-walking our way to the next general election.”
While Westerwelle is not considered to be a gay activist, he has already used his high profile to encourage German LGBT youth. He recently told a popular gay magazine, "I can only tell all young gays and lesbians to not be disheartened, if not everything goes their way. This society is changing for the good in the direction of tolerance and respect … though slower than I would wish.” Mr. Westerwelle's role as the second highest-ranking elected official in Germany will certainly speed things up a bit.
Though his election is significant for LGBT history, Westerwelle is not the highest-ranking LGBT elected official. The openly lesbian Johanna Sigurdardottir was elected prime minister of Iceland earlier this year.