In a significant step forward for LGBTQ+ rights, Latvia has become the first European Union (EU) nation to appoint an openly gay head of state.

Edgars Rinkēvičs, the former foreign minister, was sworn in as the president of Latvia during a ceremony held in Riga on Saturday, July 8th, 2023, following his successful election earlier in the same year.

During his inaugural speech, President Rinkēvičs expressed his commitment to breaking the glass ceiling and addressing the issue of inequality, which he deemed a significant problem in the Baltic country. He outlined his vision of a modern and strong Latvia, emphasising the importance of a legal and just society that promotes the well-being of its people and fosters inclusivity and respect. Rinkēvičs called for unity and collaboration to achieve these goals.


It is important to note that Latvia currently does not allow same-sex marriage, although civil unions are permitted. However, these unions do not grant the same rights and privileges as heterosexual marriages, such as adoption rights and joint property ownership.

In addition to his domestic agenda, President Rinkēvičs reaffirmed his support for Ukraine and pledged to continue his work in supporting the country as he did during his tenure as foreign minister. While the position of head of state in Latvia is primarily ceremonial, Rinkēvičs will possess veto power over legislation and the ability to call for referendums. He also serves as the country’s representative abroad, acts as the supreme commander of the armed forces, and holds the authority to nominate a prime minister.

Rinkēvičs’s election as an openly gay head of state is a historic moment for Latvia and the EU. Previously, Paolo Rondelli, the captain regent of San Marino, a non-EU state, served as the only other openly gay head of state from April to October 2022.

Within the EU, several member states have had openly LGBTQ+ heads of government, including Belgium, Ireland, and Luxembourg. Elio Di Rupo, a Belgian politician, made history in 2011 by becoming the EU’s first openly gay head of government when he was elected as the prime minister of Belgium.

Rinkēvičs publicly came out as gay in November 2014 while serving as the minister of foreign affairs. In a Twitter post, he proudly announced his sexual orientation and wished everyone well. Since then, he has consistently advocated for legalising same-sex marriage and advancing LGBTQ+ rights in Latvia.

The ILGA Europe 2023 Rainbow Map and Index, which rates countries and EU member states on their LGBTQ+ rights, positions Latvia at 37th out of 49 countries and 24th out of the 27 EU member states. The nonprofit organisation recommends that Latvian government officials introduce legislation recognising same-sex partnerships and cohabitations and implement hate crime and speech policies that explicitly address bias-motivated crimes based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex characteristics.