Edgars Rinkēvičs, the long-serving Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia, has made history as the first gay president of an EU member state. After serving as the Minister of Foreign Affairs since 2011, he was sworn in as Latvia’s president on July 8th in Riga. While the position of president in Latvia is primarily ceremonial, he does hold the authority to veto laws and call for referendums on certain issues.
Within the governments of EU countries, there have been homosexuals holding high positions, like the current Luxembourgish Prime Minister, Xavier Bettel, but there has never been a gay president. Former Belgian Prime Minister, Elio Di Rupo, was the first openly gay prime minister in the EU.
Rinkēvičs publicly came out as gay in 2014 and has been a vocal advocate for LGBTQ+ rights ever since.
Same-sex marriages are not legalized in Latvia, despite the country’s constitutional court recognizing same-sex partnerships last year. According to the Rainbow Map and Index by ILGA-Europe, Latvia ranks 37th among European countries, having achieved only 22% of the necessary reforms to achieve full equality for LGBTQ+ people. It scores lower than North Macedonia (29%), which ranks 32nd this year.
In May, the Latvian parliament elected Rinkēvičs as the next president of the country in the third round of voting. In his inaugural speech, he referred to inequality as a “significant problem” and emphasized that “social divide in our societies is too great.”
“During my presidency, I will stand up for a modern and strong Latvia, for a legal and just Latvia, for the well-being of the people, for an inclusive and respectful society. And we can all achieve this by working together,” said the Latvian president.
Latvia is one of the three Baltic states, including Lithuania and Estonia, that joined the EU in 2004 following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.