Gay man to lead Belgium

Elio Di Rupo has become Europe's second openly gay leader when he was sworn in as Belgium's new premier.

The new Prime Minister was sworn in by King Albert II at the royal palace along with his 12 cabinet ministers and six secretaries of state.

He takes over from Flemish centre-right caretaker premier Yves Leterme after negotiating an end to the longest political impasse in the country’s history – more than 500 days without a government.

Di Rupo, a French-speaking Socialist, took the oath of office in French, Dutch and German – reflecting language sensitivities in the country.

He is the first Francophone premier in 32 years for the divided nation and the first socialist Prime Minister since 1974.

Di Rupo was born in 1951 in Morlanwelz in the country’s southern region of Wallonia. He was one of seven children in a family of Italian immigrants. After his father was killed in an accident, his illiterate mother had to place some of them in an orphanage.

Di Rupo is also the first openly gay EU leader, having come out initially in 1997 when questioned by journalists. He is not the first gay leader in Europe, however, as Iceland’s Johanna Sigurdardottir became the first gay female leader of a European country in 2009.

Date: 08 December 2011


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