Varadkar amongst LGBT+ European leaders speaking about being out in politics and fighting for queer equality

European leaders, including Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, called for LGBT+ equality and addressed concerns over COVID-19's financial impact.

A zoom video call featuring five different people in screens

Openly LGBT+ European leaders spoke on the fight for queer equality, cooperation throughout COVID-19 responses, and tensions between Europe and the United States at an Atlantic Council virtual event. 

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, Luxemborg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, and Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić took part in the virtual event commemorating Pride on June 30. They opened up about their own coming out stories and the global fight for LGBT+ equality. 

Former Taoiseach Leo Varadkar highlighted how he publicly came out during the Marriage Referendum and how Ireland changed long before he took up his position. He said, “I’m just a product of a society that has become more modern, more liberal, and less religious.”

In response to a question from Mike Guest, the co-founder of the Council for Global Equity and first publicly gay man to serve as US ambassador about the relation between US and Europe, the current Tánaiste spoke about the queer liberation movement. Varadkar said, “The battle for LGBT+ equality began in New York, at Stonewall. There was a time when America was ahead of the world on so many issues such as this, and it’s not that country anymore. Perhaps that will change in November.”

Serbian Prime Minister Brnabić detailed her struggles with coming out in a conservative society. She shared, “I had to go through some really difficult times. It was terrible for my family, and especially for my partner, but we got over it.”

Brnabić further discussed how Serbia’s LGBT+ community criticised her for not doing enough. She stated, “My mission was firstly to be a gay prime minister. My job wasn’t to push the LGBT agenda, but to be prime minister and assure that everyone lives better. If I could have at least one gay person in Serbia feel more at ease with themselves, then my goal will have been achieved.”

Speaking with moderator and executive vice-president of the Altantic Council, Damon Wilson, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said, “You invited here three ‘out’ politicians. I hope that one day, nobody will care about being out or not. The fact there’s only been five of us who have led governments is sad, because there must have been many more who just didn’t come out, or couldn’t come out.”

The three LGBT+ European leaders also warned of the financial pressures brought on by COVID-19. Varadkar stated, “The country was very united during the pandemic. The economic crisis that is coming could be very divisive.”

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