Foreign Policy. Picture above - Guido Westerwelle, right, celebrates his party's victory with his boyfriend. (Thanks, Myrthe, for the link.)
Newsweek: Germany is getting a new foreign minister. Cabinet officials come and go in Europe's democracies, but this is different: Guido Westerwelle, the leader of the German Free Democratic Party, will become the first openly gay foreign minister in the world. The prevalence of openly gay politicians in Europe is hardly big news: Iceland's prime minister, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, is the world's first openly gay head of state; the mayors of Paris and Berlin are also out of the closet. And yes, it's a milestone that this could occur in Germany, a nation that only 70 years ago attempted to exterminate homosexuals. But the truly significant thing about Westerwelle's new job is not what it means for Europe's economic powerhouse—already a country very tolerant of gays—but what it means for the rest of the world.
Westerwelle is about to become the face that Germany presents overseas—which might be a problem for the nations where the denial of homosexuality and the imprisonment, torture, and murder of gay people are official state policies. That's why, after he takes the helm of the Foreign Ministry, Westerwelle ought to kick off his tenure with a tour of the world's most homophobic nations, speaking about the horrific ways in which these regimes treat their gay citizens. Unfortunately, he might be on the road for a while. [...]
While it's unfortunately true that many homophobic regimes channel popular homophobic opinion in their countries, it's also true that individuals are more likely to support equal rights for homosexuals if they interact with them. For the vast majority of the people in nations Westerwelle visits, he will be just a distant figure, someone whose face they will see on the front page of newspapers and on television. But his being in the room during high-level talks with the likes of Ahmadinejad and Vladimir Putin may alter their attitudes about homosexuality, if only a little.
Even if Westerwelle were not to make an issue of his own homosexuality, recognition of it would be inevitable—especially in countries where homosexuality is viewed as a foreign, specifically "Western" export. The prospect of an openly gay person in a prominent public position is unfathomable in many societies, and the interest in Westerwelle would be almost voyeuristic. That he leads a perfectly normal domestic life alongside a long-term partner—with whom he could travel, forcing foreign governments to provide diplomatic protection and ceremonial recognition to a same-sex couple or lose out on state visits—would dispel many of the bigoted notions that so many people hold about homosexuality. [...] (Thanks to Hrag for the link.)
3 weeks ago