Thursday

21st Feb 2019

Luxembourg PM marries gay partner

  • Luxembourg art installation: The marriage symbolised advances in legal rights for gay people (Photo: Marc Ben Fatma)

Luxembourg prime minister Xavier Bettel put himself in the history books on Friday (15 May) by becoming the first EU government leader to marry someone of the same sex.

The marriage - held in private - symbolises how legal rights for gay citizens of the EU have advanced in the past years.

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Since 2001, gay marriage has become possible in just over a third of EU countries. When counting non-EU members Norway and Iceland, twelve European countries allow people of the same sex to marry.

Luxembourg is the latest addition, since 1 January 2015, and Finland will follow, although the law will only take effect in 2017.

“Luxembourg can set an example," Bettel noted on his wedding day, which was attended by Belgian prime minister Charles Michel.

Bettel, who married a Belgian architect, is the second government leader in the world to marry someone from the same sex.

In 2010, Johanna Sigurðardottir, then prime minister of Iceland, married her gay partner.

The next country to take a position on the matter will be Ireland which is due to decide by referendum on Friday (22 May) whether it will legalise same-sex marriages.

Several polls show that a majority intends to vote Yes, although support has dropped somewhat recently.

A civil partnership has been legal in Ireland since 2011, but homosexuality was illegal until 1993.

The referendum results will be announced on Saturday.

A look at the map of progress on gay rights in Europe is almost a reminder of the divide between East and West during the Cold War.

Except for Ireland, the western and northern part of the EU have legalised gay marriage, central Europe including Germany have a registered partnership possibility, while many eastern European countries have constitutions limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples.

Earlier this month, an NGO that advocates equal rights published its annual review of the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex.

Again, western European nations generally score higher than eastern countries.

However, legalising same-sex marriage does not automatically change views.

In the Netherlands, the first country in the EU and the world to legalise gay marriage in 2001, a recent study showed that attitudes towards gay people differ to those towards straight people.

A study by the Netherlands Institute for Social Research showed that there is a difference between agreeing with general statements on gay rights, and encountering gay people on the street.

While 90 percent of those polled said gay men and women “should be able to live their lives as they want it”, 35 percent said they would find it offensive to see two men kiss in public. Two women kissing was offensive to 24 percent, and a man and a woman kissing in public would offend 12 percent.

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