September 25, 2019 / 2:57 AM / 23 days ago

Luxembourg's gay PM says everyone has a duty to challenge hate speech

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel told the United Nations on Tuesday that as an openly gay politician he could not accept hate speech and everyone had a duty to challenge it.

FILE PHOTO: Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel speaks during the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 23, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

In what advocates said was the first speech at the U.N. by an openly gay world leader on LGBT+ rights, Bettel called on world leaders to stop freedom of expression from leading to harm.

“We are all part and we all have a responsibility,” Bettel told an LGBT+ meeting during the U.N.’s annual General Assembly.

“This starts from ... your politicians but it goes also to a family evening, to dinner with friends, with family. If they have hate speech you can never accept it.”

Bettel, 46, who was re-elected for a second term in 2018, is one of three openly gay and lesbian leaders in the world along with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and Serbia’s Prime Minister Ana Brnabic.

He married his civil partner in 2015, becoming the first serving leader in the European Union to wed someone of the same sex.

A study released earlier this year by researchers at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, who analyzed results from a European Social Survey, found homophobia had risen in European countries that did not legally recognize same-sex relationships.

While acceptance of gay and lesbian people jumped in states where they can marry between 2002 and 2016, countries such as Russia, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine all saw acceptance of gay and lesbian people decrease over that period.

Bettel said homophobia was a “personal choice” that had to be fought against and being gay was not “a choice”.

In February he confronted Arab leaders of countries that have the death penalty for gay sex at a summit between the European Union and the Arab League.

Among the 22 Arab League members, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Sudan impose the death penalty for gay sex. Nigeria, Somalia and Iran also have capital punishment, while Mauritania and Brunei have moratoriums on death sentences for same-sex relations.

“President al-Sisi (of Egypt) did a speech to ask for more religious freedom,” Bettel told the U.N.’s LGBTI Core Group, whose 27 member countries include Argentina, the United States and Albania.

“I just answered I want more tolerance to women, more tolerance to opinions, but also in ... the Arab league, in half the countries I wouldn’t be able to speak because I would be condemned to death.”

Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage; Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org

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