Michael Westerwelle, leader of the Free Democratic Party in Germany, looks set to become vice chancellor and foreign minister in a coalition government with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union. Besides the political ramifications, this is also notable because Westerwelle is openly gay.
What [German voters] have been uncertain about is whether a gay man, who sometimes takes his partner on official overseas trips, can function as a foreign minister. Could there, for instance, be snubs from President Ahmadinejad (who, after the execution of two gay men, told a Western audience: “We don’t have homosexuals, as in your country.”). Or jokes from Silvio Berlusconi (whose supporters recently used homosexuality claims to get rid of a critical editor)?
…Public attitudes to homosexual politicians have evolved over the past five years. Berlin and Paris gained openly gay mayors and Iceland claimed the first openly lesbian prime minister.
“Some countries may have had a problem with Angela Merkel becoming the first female Chancellor,” said Mr Westerwelle. “And naturally she doesn’t wear a veil when she visits certain Arab states.” It was up to the outside world to accept German representatives “based on our own political and moral standards”. But the challenge is persuading conservative German voters that family values are notbeing undermined. Hence the visit to the Oktoberfest.