Gay politician Jens Spahn is in the running to succeed Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Spahn, 38, has thrown his hat in the ring to succeed Merkel as the head of the right-wing Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party.
Germany’s long-serving leader Angela Merkel plans to stand down as chancellor at the next German federal election in 2021 after 16 years in the role. She will be replaced as head of the CDU in December 2018 to prepare for her exit as chancellor.
Spahn, who has served in the Merkel cabinet as Minister of Health since March 2018, has declared his candidacy to become CDU leader. He will face Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and Friedrich Merz in the race.
The right-wing lawmaker, who came out in 2012, married husband Daniel Funke in December 2017 just months after same-sex marriage was greenlit in the country.
Jens Spahn would be Germany’s second out party leader
If elected, he would become the first out leader of the CDU, but not Germany’s first out political leader.
The far-right Alternative für Deutschland party is already led in the Bundestag by Alice Weidel, who is a lesbian.
AfD holds 92 seats in the Bundestag, compared to 246 for the CDU and its Bavarian sister party the CSU.
Weidel was one of the AfD’s two candidates for chancellor in 2017, but she has distanced herself from the LGBT+ community and attracted controversy for her extreme anti-Islam views.
Not everyone is convinced that Spahn’s candidacy will succeed.
Helmut Metzner of the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany told Reuters: “I don’t think that this conservative party is ready to put forward an openly gay chancellor or party chair.”
The CDU is still divided on LGBT+ issues
Divisions within the party became evident this week, when CDU education minister Anja Karliczek faced a backlash for comments about same-sex marriage and gay parents.
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Karliczek had said she was unsettled by the fast pace of change in the country, calling for a “study” into the impact of gay parenting on children.
The comments led to a clash within the cabinet, with families minister Franziska Giffey emphasising: “Studies have already shown that children develop just as well under homosexual partnerships as they do in families with mothers and fathers…what counts is that people lovingly take care of their children.”
Jens Spahn voted for equal marriage
Same-sex marriage became legal in Germany in October 2017, after Merkel opted to allow a law to pass through the German Parliament despite her own personal opposition.
Merkel, who has led Germany since 2005, gave CDU representatives a free vote on the proposal but cast her own vote against the legislation.
Spahn cast his vote in favour, later affirming: “I voted for the opening of marriage with complete conviction,” and calling out those who compared it to incest or polygamy.
In an interview with Politico, he alluded to a famous remark from the UK’s ex-Prime Minister David Cameron: “I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative.”
Although neither his leadership nor the CDU’s victory in 2021 are assured, Spahn’s victory would open the door to him becoming Germany’s first gay chancellor after the next election.
The CDU will decide its leader on December 7.