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Gay Luxembourg PM Xavier Bettel stuns Arab leaders with pro-gay speech

Josh Jackman March 1, 2019
Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel attends a joint press conference with the German Chancellor at the chancellery in Berlin, on February 13, 2019.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel made a speech about gay rights to Arab leaders this week. (ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty)

Xavier Bettel, the first ever openly gay Prime Minister of Luxembourg, reportedly stunned Arab leaders into silence by pointing out that he could be legally killed in some of their nations.

Speaking at the first EU-League of Arab States summit this week in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, Bettel raised the fact that his sexuality would be illegal and potentially deadly in many Arab countries.

On Wednesday (February 27), German journalist Stefan Leifert tweeted: “Luxembourg PM @Xavier_Bettel confronts the fact that he is married to a man and is threatened with death in many of the countries present.”

He reported that the speech was met with “icy silence by some, quiet joy by others.”

A tweet by gay Luxembourg leader Xavier Bettel.
Xavier Bettel said that saying nothing “was not an option” for him. (Xavier_Bettel/twitter)

Bettel quote-tweeted Leifert’s post, writing: “Saying nothing was not an option for me” before adding his initials.

Of the countries present at the summit, gay sex can be legally punished with death in Qatar, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

It is also illegal in Algeria, Comoros, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Tunisia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, defended the decision to hold a summit with countries which have poor human rights records.

“If I as a gay person would not talk about that, I would have a problem.”

— Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel

Juncker, who Bettel replaced as prime minister of Luxembourg, said, “If I only talked to flawless democrats, then I would end my week already by Tuesday,” according to The Guardian.

Bettel signposted his remarks when talking to reporters on Sunday (February 24), according to French TV network Euronews.

“If I as a gay person would not talk about that, I would have a problem,” said Bettel.

Gay Prime Minister Xavier Bettel has long been an LGBT+ pioneer

In 2013, Bettel was voted in as prime minister of Luxembourg, becoming the third openly queer world leader after Iceland’s Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir and Belgium’s Elio Di Rupo.

By brokering a coalition with Socialist leader Étienne Schneider, Bettel made Luxembourg the first country to have a gay prime minister and gay deputy prime Minister at the same time.

Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel (R) and his partner Gauthier Destenay arrives at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris on November 10, 2018 to attend a state dinner and a visit of the Picasso exhibition as part of ceremonies marking the 100th anniversary of the 11 November 1918 armistice, ending World War I.
Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel married his partner Gauthier Destenay in 2015. (ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty)

Under Bettel’s leadership, Luxembourg’s parliament legalised same-sex marriage by a landslide vote of 56-4 in 2015. The law also granted adoption rights to same-sex couples.

Bettel married his husband Gauthier Destenay shortly after the country legalised marriage equality, in a private ceremony with a strict ban on press.

In 2018, he was elected again, making him the first openly gay world leader to win a second term in office.

More: Arab, Europe, Europe, european commission, Gay, Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg, Luxembourg, Politics, same sex marriage, Xavier Bettel

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