Luxembourg’s prime minister is to become the first European Union leader – and only the second worldwide leader – to marry someone of the same sex.
Xavier Bettel, 42, and his partner, Gauthier Destenay, an architect from Belgium, are among the first gay men to wed in the mostly Catholic Grand Duchy since it became the latest EU state to extend full rights to same-sex couples.
Their union comes five years after Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, the then prime minister of Iceland, became the first serving leader in the world to marry a same-sex partner.
Bettel and Destenay, who have been civil partners since 2010, were expected to say their vows in a quiet civil ceremony with friends and family, away from the glare of publicity.
“It won’t be a flashy ceremony but the symbolism’s very strong,” said French broadcaster Stéphane Bern, a friend of Bettel and Destenay. “Everyone’s warm and positive,” Bern was quoted as saying by the Luxemburger Wort newspaper.
Few details have emerged about the wedding, which Bettel had aimed to keep private. Press photographers have been banned.
“He does not want to put his private life in the public spotlight and he has turned down requests from the celebrity magazines to cover the event,” a friend told Agence France-Presse earlier this month.
Bettel, who is leader of Luxembourg’s centre-right Democratic Party, came out publicly as gay in 2008. But since taking power 18 months ago he has played down the significance of his sexuality, insisting “what happens at home remains private”.
His party won its leading place in a coalition government after promising to be a modernising force for Luxembourg, with plans to replace religious education in schools with general ethics classes, and to lower the voting age to 16.
Same-sex marriage was another key pledge. It was previously knocked down in 2007 by the then ruling Christian People’s party, but a poll in 2013 found 83% of Luxembourgers supported a change in the law.
Little is known about Destenay, who works for the Belgian-Luxembourger architecture firm A3. He has appeared alongside Bettel at a number of official events, including the royal wedding of Prince Guillaume and Princess Stéphanie in 2012.
What is known is that it was Destenay who proposed, reportedly asking for Bettel’s hand just weeks after Luxembourg’s parliament last July became the ninth EU legislature to lift a ban on gay marriages.
“I said ‘yes’,” Bettel told the Los Angeles Times. “I have just one life and I don’t want to hide my life.”