The Prime Minister of Luxembourg has become the first gay EU leader to enter into a same-sex union, after getting married in a low-key ceremony. Prime Minister Xavier Bettel is being held up as a symbol of social change and the growing acceptance of homosexuality across the continent.
The 42-year-old centre-right politician, who became premier in 2013, married his partner Gauthier Destenay, a Belgian architect. The wedding comes just months after the conservative Roman Catholic duchy legalised gay weddings. Bettel worse a nave blue suit as he said his ‘I dos’, while his partner dressed in a dark grey suit, at the ceremony held at the Luxembourg town hall.
The happy pair held hands as they arrived at the venue, to the applause of the around 100 well-wishers. ‘Thank you to all Luxembourgers,’ said Bettel, after the ceremony, as the crowd threw rice and confetti over the newlyweds. Bettel is only the second gay leader in the world to wed their partner, and the first in the 28-nation EU.
Iceland’s prime minister, Johanna Sigurdardottir, became the first when she married her partner, a writer, in 2010. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, who was among the guests at Bettel’s wedding, said he had come for a ‘mate’s wedding’, adding that it was a ‘big moment’ for his counterpart from the neighbouring country. ‘Luxembourg is giving the image of a country that is advanced on social issues. That is a message sent at a time when homophobia is on the rise in Europe,’ said another friend of the couple, journalist Stephane Bern.
Luxembourg’s parliament approved same-sex marriage in June 2014 and the first weddings took place on January 1, 2015, making it the latest in a growing number of European countries to embrace the trend. Bettel’s wedding comes the week before staunchly Catholic Ireland holds a referendum on whether to allow same-sex marriage.
On the eve of his marriage to Destenay, Bettel said he had not wanted to hide his sexuality. ‘I could have hidden it or repressed it and been unhappy my whole life. I could have had relations with someone of the other sex while having homosexual relations in secret,’ he told Belgium’s RTBF public television.