Day 4 – Vada Advent Calendar
LGBT in Politics
This year, people within the LGBT community around the world continued to run for positions in governments within their respective countries. This means that representation for gay rights around the world is being addressed in offices where differences can truly be made. It’s an important time to look back on the people who paved the way for these officials and what it means for the future of LGBT rights across the world.
Europe is about to gain its second out gay Prime Minister, marking another step forward in regards to acceptance of openly gay public officials. Xavier Bettel is set to become Luxembourg’s Prime Minister in the coming weeks. The openly gay European Prime Minister before him is Belgium’s Elio Di Rupo. However, it’s important to note that Iceland’s former leader Johanna Sigurdardottir paved the way for openly gay public officials when she ran the Icelandic nation between 2009-2013. Unexpectedly, Bettel led the centrist Democratic Party to its highest-ever election result, earning the right to shape government. Although Luxembourg is a slight country of only 54,000 people, it plays a major role in the European Union, which means that Bettel is in a position to become a major political figure in Brussels.
In an interview with BuzzFeed- Bettel taking a break to do the interview out of his increasingly busy schedule- Bettel sympathizes with politicians who hid their sexuality, but never felt the need to hide his own. He says, “Everyone has to be OK with their own situation. When you have accepted yourself that you are like you are — the first step as a teenager — the next step is to see that no one cares. If you are losing friends because of your sexuality then they are not your friends. I never hid it. It’s a fact, I am like I am and I want to be honest with myself and honest in politics.”
Bettel makes a powerful statement when he speaks out about being honest with yourself as well as being honest in politics. This kind of attitude toward the LGBT community and LGBT youth in the European Union has sparked hope for those that don’t necessarily feel safe to come out or be gay in their respective countries. It’s a movement of change that will hopefully continue to wash over the perspectives of other foreign leaders— for example, Vladimir Putin— in an age where acceptance is key for political parties to be successful. It isn’t so much as tolerating the existence of LGBT people in their respective Unions, but accepting them as people, nothing less. Bettel has high hopes that in 2014 gay marriage will be legalized in Luxembourg, however, his main focus will always be improving Luxembourg’s economy as a whole. It will be exciting and revolutionizing to see what Bettel ends up bringing not only to Luxembourg, but to the European Union as a whole.
Across the ocean in Canada, this year the county has welcomed a “first” on two accounts: Canada’s first female premier, who also happens to be Canada’s first openly gay premier, former education minister Kathleen Wynne. She won the party’s leadership race at the beginning of the year. Wynne made history as Canada’s first openly gay premier and strongly believes that Ontario is ready for a gay woman as premier and says she “does not believe Ontarians hold prejudice in their hearts.” Strong words for a strong candidate built around the idea that the people of Ontario are free from the prisons of prejudice and ignorance, and that they accept, not only tolerate, everyone as they are. Wynne continues to be a landmark in the stride for equality in Canada.
In Turkey, Can Cavusoglu, a 43-year-old gay rights activist, is set to become the first openly gay candidate for office in the country. Cavusoglu announced that he would be running for mayor as an independent candidate in Bulancak. While he was educated in the United States and is a native of Istanbul, he wants to become the first gay mayor in Turkey, where the nation is populated by a Muslim majority. Homosexuality is not illegal in Turkey, however it continues to be frowned upon outside of major cities. In recent years, Turkey has been relaxing its attitudes towards homosexuality, which can only help its bid for its candidacy for EU membership.
In the United States, since 2012, we’ve seen all 50 states served by openly LGBT elected politicians in some capacity. At least 41 states have elected openly LGBT politicians to one or both houses of their state legislature. However, not one LGBT individual has ever been elected as governor or president or served as a Cabinet member. Only one state governor has ever come out: Jim McGreevey, New Jersey state governor, who came out in a speech where he also resigned in 2004.
Worldwide, we’ve seen a rippling tide of change make its way through the people of the countries and then inevitably to the politicians and policy-makers that govern each country. This is an age where we can openly identify as LGBT and run for office and, as we’ve seen, be elected into said office. The LGBT community is seeing a larger number of politicians come into power who not only are openly gay, but show a beacon of hope for those who struggle for equal rights.
We, as a community, are represented by policy-makers worldwide who wish to see a day where equal rights is a standard for all people. There has never been a brighter period for those that are fighting in governing official offices who truly represent what the LGBT community stands for. The LGBT community is entering a time where being openly gay is so much more than tolerated, more importantly: accepted.