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Gay man likely to be new German foreign minister
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Gay man likely to be new German foreign minister

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Guido Westerwelle, the openly Gay head of Germany's Free Democratic Party, will probably become foreign minister when Chancellor Angela Merkel completes negotiations on her new cabinet.

Merkel, the leader of the Christian Democratic Union, won re-election as chancellor in an election September 27.

Germany is a parliamentary democracy, in which the chancellor must have the support of a majority in the Bundestag (Parliament). Since many parties compete for seats, the result is often a coalition government in which the leader of the largest party becomes chancellor, and the leader of the next largest coalition partner typically is named foreign minister.

Both Merkel's Christian Democrats and Westerwelle's Free Democrats are center-right parties, so the new government is expected to adopt more conservative economic polices than her first one, in which her coalition partner was the center-left Social Democratic Party.

While the Social Democrats still came second in the voting, they suffered their worst electoral showing in 60 years. Merkel's Christian Democrats also lost votes, but Westerwelle's party gained votes - as did The Left coalition and the Greens.

Merkel's CDU won 194 seats in the 622-member Bundestag, the CDU's Bavarian franchise CSU will have another 45, and Westerwelle's FDP will have 93, giving her a majority of 21 votes. The SDP will be excluded from the new government.

Merkel is the first woman chancellor of Germany, and Westerwelle will be the first openly Gay German foreign minister.

Westerwelle's sexual orientation did not become an issue in the campaign, although one local official did have to apologize for an anti-Gay remark made on election night. Social Democrat Peter Langner, the city treasurer of Duisburg, reportedly blurted out, "I don't want a Gay foreign minister!"

Westerwelle is not the first prominent German politician to be openly Gay. Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit, a Social Democrat, came out in 2001, declaring, "I'm Gay, and that's a good thing."

Westerwelle has been out since 2004, when he brought his partner to Chancellor Merkel's 50th birthday party.

"I can only tell all young Gays and Lesbians to not be disheartened, if not everything goes their way," Westerwelle told the Berlin Gay magazine Siegessaeule. "This society is changing for the good in the direction of tolerance and respect ... though slower than I would wish."

"I've never been hiding my life," Westerwelle said. "I just lived it."

Westerwelle's partner, Michael Mronz, met Westerwelle in 2003, according to Bild newspaper. Mronz recently joined the Free Democrats, telling Bild that after listening to 120 speeches by his partner, "I am completely convinced."

Westerwelle became chairman of the FDP in 2001 after 21 years as a party activist.

He joined the FDP in 1980 at the age of 19. He was a founding member of the party's youth organization Junge Liberale (Liberal Youth) and was its chairman from 1983 to 1988.

He became a member of the FDP Executive Board in 1988, and became party secretary general in 1994.

Westerwelle has been a member of the Bundestag since 1996.

During the campaign, Westerwelle spoke out for stronger civil rights laws, and has complained that German law does not give complete adoption rights to Gay couples.

The Lesbian and Gay Association in Germany welcomed Westerwelle's victory and hoped his election would advance Gay rights in Germany.

"We think it's awesome that it has become so normal that an openly Gay man becomes foreign minister," said Klaus Jetz, the head of the Association, adding that the Gay community expected him to advocate for Gay rights in Germany and abroad as well.

"It's important that as foreign minister he will openly talk about human rights and the persecution of Gays and Lesbians in other countries," Jetz told Bild.

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