May 14, 2015 / 1:33 PM / 3 years ago

Luxembourg PM to become second serving leader to wed gay partner

LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - Luxembourg’s prime minister on Friday becomes the first serving leader in the European Union to marry someone of the same sex, and only the second worldwide -- and all in a tiny, mostly Catholic country often considered rather conservative.

Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly at United Nations Headquarters in New York, September 26, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Xavier Bettel, 42, and his civil partner Gauthier Destenay are among the first gay men to exercise their right to wed since the Grand Duchy in January become the latest EU state to extend full rights to same-sex marriages.

“Everyone’s warm and positive,” broadcaster Stephane Bern, a long-time friend who will be a guest at the quiet civil ceremony, was quoted as saying by the Luxemburger Wort newspaper. “It won’t be a flashy ceremony but the symbolism’s very strong.”

A lawyer who became mayor of the city of Luxembourg at 38, Bettel has long been open about his sexuality and plays down its significance. He notes that his coalition deputy is also gay.

Five years ago, Johanna Sigurdardottir, then the prime minister of Iceland, became the first serving leader in the world to marry a same-sex partner.

Bettel took power 18 months ago after his center-right party won elections that ended 19 years in power for Jean-Claude Juncker, who now heads the European Commission in Brussels.

Shortly after Luxembourg’s parliament last year became the ninth EU legislature to clear the way for gay marriage, Bettel told the Los Angeles Times that Destenay, a Belgian architect who has been his civil partner since 2010, had proposed.

“I said ‘Yes’,” he said. “I have just one life and I don’t want to hide my life.”

Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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