San Marino appoints world’s first openly gay head of state

Paolo Rondelli san marino
Image: Arcigay Rimini Facebook

The world’s fifth smallest country appointed Paolo Rondelli one of the country’s two Captains Regent on April 1. The appointment makes the former diplomat the world’s first openly gay Head of State.

Despite other countries previously electing openly gay heads of government, Paolo Rondelli is the first openly gay head of state.

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir retired as Prime Minister of Iceland in 2012 after serving three years. Then, Elio Di Rupo became Prime Minister of Belgium for three years from 2011. Luxembourg elected Xavier Bettel in 2013 and in Serbia, Ana Brnabic has been Prime Minister since 2017. Leo Varadkar served as Irish Taoiseach from 2017 until 2020. (A gay man also served as acting PM of Norway for a brief period in 2002.)

Paolo Rondelli, a former chemical engineer served as San Marino’s ambassador to the United States from 2007 until 2016.

Landlocked San Marino is the world’s oldest republic, officially founded on September 3, 301 CE. The country comprises just 61 square kilometres and a population of around 33,500 people.

San Marino only decriminalised homosexuality in 2004. Until that time, men faced jail sentences for consenting adult homosexual sex acts. However, in a sign of the small republic’s rapid progress on human rights, in 2016, it voted to legally recognise same-sex couples.

Captains Regent

The San Marino legislature elects two Captains Regent every six months. They serve concurrently and hold equal power.

Arcigay Rimini, a gay rights organisation in the nearby Italian city of Rimini posted that Paolo Rondelli is not only openly gay but also a prominent activist.

“He is the first head of state in the world to be declared homosexual and activist for LGBTI community rights. There are precedents between Prime Ministers and Ministers, but it is the first time in the world for a head of state.”

Arcigay Rimini described San Marino’s progress in recent years as ‘a path of deep revolution’ and ‘mind-blowing’.

“In a few years, San Marino has approved the paritary civil unions thanks to the contribution of Paolo Rondelli and the collaboration of Arcigay Rimini, he has introduced the ban on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the constitutional law zionale thanks to a referendum won with a crushing majority of 71%.”

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