December 7, 2011 | by Phil Reese
Belgium swears in Europe’s 2nd openly gay head of government

Elio Di Rupo

Belgium's new Premier Elio Di Rupo will lead a fragile political coalition through troubled water. (Photo by Luc van Braekel)

Tuesday Belgium’s socialist government swore in as Premier Elio Di Rupo, making him the world’s second openly gay head of government after Iceland’s Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir who was sworn in as that nation’s head of government in 2009.

According to the Vancouver Sun, not only is the 60 year old politician with a Ph.D in chemistry a trail-blazing openly gay leader of the nation, he is the first minority French-speaking premier of the dual-language country in over 40 years, and the first socialist leader since 1974. His take-over marks the end of a record-setting 500 days without a government in that nation.

Di Rupo was born to an Italian immigrant coal-miner father and an illiterate mother, and the last of seven children, Di Rupo’s father died when he was 12 months old and his mother and he lived in poverty during his formative years.

During the 1990s he became a rising star in the socialist party, but his career was nearly sidelined by a sex scandal in 1996. The Vancouver Sun relates a story he told about coming out.

“‘This is totally false,’ I said as a crowd of journalists milled around. One of them said: ‘People say you’re homosexual?’ I turned around and said ‘Yes. So what?’ I’ll never forget that instant. After my reply everything went silent. It was a sincere reply, the truth.’”

Di Rupo will lead a fragile coalition government through tough financial reforms as all of Europe attempts to grapple with the debt crisis and a Euro in danger of collapsing.

 

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