Guido Westerwelle, Germany’s—and Europe’s—first openly gay foreign minister has recently announced the decision that he would not be accompanied by his longtime domestic partner Michael Mronz on official visits to counties where homosexuality is criminalized. Mr. Mronz, an event manager, had recently traveled to South America with the official delegation of Germany.
The foreign minister explained his decision to go it alone, “We want to promote tolerance in the world, but we don’t want to achieve the opposite by behaving imprudently. It is smarter to advance step-by-step and sensitively.” Westerwelle said there are at least 75 countries where homosexuality is outlawed. Human Rights First’s colleagues from ILGA-Europe say that, in fact, 80 countries consider homosexuality illegal, and five of them punish same-sex acts with death.
Germany’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Vice Chancellor, as well as the Chairman of the Free Democratic Party, Westerwelle revealed his sexual orientation to the public in 2004, when he was accompanied by Mr. Mronz to Angela Merkel’s 50th birthday party. Westerwelle-led Free Democratic Party (FDP) currently maintains the third-largest representation in the Bundestag, the German Parliament. The FDP is a strong supporter of human rights and civil liberties. Even in Germany, despite significant progress, there are plenty of challenges facing gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. The country’s premiere news agency Deutsche Welle reported last month that not enough is being done to curtail the recent rise in violent gay-bashing.
Westerwelle’s decision means that you will not see Mr. Mronz on the upcoming trips to Yemen or Saudi Arabia. Of course, Germany will not back away from its commitments to promoting tolerance abroad: over the past years, the country provided funds for programs to combat hate crimes and promote tolerance in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union. Human Rights First, which monitors the situation in those countries, has urged more governments to share best practices to combat intolerance and racism as part of a Ten-Point Plan to combat hate crimes.