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Germany to Gain Gay Foreign Minister?

by Kilian Melloy
Friday Sep 25, 2009
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He dresses well; he speaks well; his professional conduct is of the civilized sort. Is it a surprise that the politician who is seen as likely to be the next German foreign minister is also openly gay?

A Sept. 25 Associated Press article posted at Boston.com reported that Free Democratic Party leader Guido Westerwelle is poised to become the next foreign minister if his party does well in this weekend’s elections.

The article noted that Westerwelle, 47, had garnered notoriety as a younger man with publicity moves like a reality show appearance. But such antics seem behind him now: with maturity, Westerwelle has become a confident and self-possessed politician.

The article quoted Westerwelle as saying, "I may have made some missteps in my younger years. But you learn from your mistakes."

The article noted that the well-dressed Westerwelle has cultivated a personal polish that extends beyond his wardrobe; he is an art collector and has a long-term relationship with a same-sex partner, Michael Mronz.

But being gay, while not a secret, is not part of Westerwells’s professional curriculum vitae.

Civil conduct and an ability to listen, however, are. Westerwelle reckoned that, starting in childhood, he acquired valuable skills for his political career: "[T]o be assertive and accommodating at the same time, to be able to compromise and also give others a chance from time to time."

He is also something of a "great communicator." The article noted that he is regarded as the best at delivering speeches by the very people who write the speeches.

The article included a quote from professor of political science Oskar Niedermeyer, of Berlin’s free university, who said, "Westerwelle has a much better reputation with voters today than in the past.

"He is more serious," reckoned Niedermeyer, "and his ratings have distinctly improved."

As have the ratings for the Free Democrats as a party, the article said. It doesn’t hurt that Westerwelle combines pro-business sentiments with inclusive social messages.

The article quoted him as declaring, "We are a party for the whole people."

The Free Democrats are expected to do well in the German elections slated to take place on Sept. 27, reported British newspaper The Times in a Sept. 25 article, which could make the party an important coalition partner with the Christian Democrats, the party of current German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Westerwelle, the Times article noted, had put in an appearance at Oktoberfest, the annual German celebration that started this week and will continue into next month.

A party spokesman explained that, "Serious beer drinkers are also serious voters--and they want tax cuts as much as anyone else."

But the prospect of a gay foreign minister might concern some voters who wonder how Westerwelle would deal with homophobic heads of state like Iran’s President Ahmadinejad or other Arab leaders.

Then there is the question of "family values." But a public show of beer guzzling, the Times suggested, would placate those who feared that traditional values might be lost on an openly gay man.

As for how an out and proud gay foreign minister might get along with anti-gay officials from theocratic nations, Westerwelle pointed out that Merkel, the first female Chancellor, did not feel obliged to don a veil when meeting dignitaries from the Middle East.

The article also noted that other GLBT leaders around the world had gained prominent positions in recent years, with the mayors of Berlin and Paris being gay and the Prime Minister of Iceland being openly lesbian.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network’s Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association’s Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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