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Luxembourg's gay prime minister challenges Arab leaders over anti-gay laws during summit

"Saying nothing was not option".

2019-03-01

Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel has insisted that "saying nothing was not an option" after he challenged Arab leaders over anti-gay laws in the region during a summit this week.

The Luxembourgish leader, who became the first EU premier to marry a same-sex partner when he tied the knot with part Guathier Destenday in 2015, used his appearance at an EU and Arab League meeting in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, to raise the issue of LGBT rights, the Guardian reports.

Mr Bettel, 45, reportedly told a conference room of Arab leaders that his marriage would put him at risk of death in many of the countries they represented.

A German reporter in attendance tweeted that the comments were met with "icy silence" in the room, but sparked "quiet joy" in many.

Homosexuality is currently outlawed - or effectively outlawed due to ongoing state persecution - in 19 of 22 Arab League member states. In four of these - Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan and Mauritania - homosexuality is punishable by death.

Taking to Twitter after his comments were reported publicly, Mr Bettel wrote: "Saying nothing was not an option for me".

Mr Bettel became Luxembourg’s first openly gay Prime Minister when he assumed office in 2013, becoming just the third openly gay head of government in modern history, following Iceland’s former Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir and Belgium’s former Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo.

In 2018 he became the first openly gay Prime Minister in the world to be re-elected for a second term. His Deputy Prime Minister, Etienne Schneider, is also gay, in another world first.

In 2017, Mr Bettel's husband Gaultier, a Belgian architect, helped create a historic picture when he posed for an official picture at a NATO conference with the wives of world leaders including France's Brigitte Macron and the USA's Melania Trump.