Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany on
Saturday introduced for the first time her new center-right
government, including an openly gay foreign minister.
The appointment of Guido Westerwelle,
47, had been widely expected, but not certain.
As leader of the pro-business Free
Democrats, Westerwelle was guaranteed a plum post when Merkel, 55,
won reelection last month and dumped her partners, the Social
Democrats, in favor of the Free Democrats.
On Saturday, Westerwelle sat besides
Merkel at a joint news conference at which the new government
promised to reform the health-care system, cut taxes and pull out all
nuclear weapons from the country.
During the campaign, Westerwelle
appeared often with his 42-year-old partner, event manager Michael
Mronz. The pair have been crowned Germany's new “power couple”
by the media.
According to media accounts, the two
men met in 2003 and were first seen together attending Merkel's 50th
birthday party in 2004.
“We think it's awesome that it has
become so normal that an openly gay man becomes foreign minister,”
Klaus Jetz, who heads the Lesbian and Gay Association in Germany,
told the AFP.
“It's important that as foreign
minister he will openly talk about human rights and the persecution
of gays and lesbians in other countries,” Jetz added.
Westerwelle, however, has had little to
say on the topic of gay rights.
“This society is changing for the
good in the direction of tolerance and respect … though slower than
I would wish,” he told gay monthly Siegessauele last month
in a rare interview with the gay media. He also told the glossy that
he did not attend Merkel's birthday party with his partner to create
a headline, but he felt it should be normal for him to attend.