Edgars Rinkevics, who has served as Latvia’s foreign minister since 2011, was sworn in as their head of state on July 8, making him the first openly gay president of the European Union.
Though the president of Latvia is primarily a ceremonial head of state, Rinkevics can exact influence, referendums, and veto or pass legislation. The president represents Latvia on the world stage, acts as supreme commander of the armed forces, can nominate the prime minister, and dissolve the Parliament.
Rinkevics, who was elected by parliament on May 31, first came out in 2014 while working as foreign minister. He has since advocated for LGBTQ rights in Latvia, where same-sex unions are recognized officially but full marriage equality has not been completely reached.
Now, as president, Rinkevics plans to work to make Latvia a more inclusive country, which is made notable by the reality that Baltic nations have been less progressive than some other countries. Neighboring Estonia, however, recently became the first former Soviet country to win marriage equality and is known to have some of the most tolerant attitudes towards the LGBTQ community in eastern Europe.
“In Latvia, the rights of every person must be respected and protected in accordance with the highest human rights values and standards,” Rinkevics said in his inauguration speech.
Rinkevics added that he is prepared to work closely with the legislature to achieve those goals.
In a message of support to Ukraine, Rinevics vowed to stand with Kyiv in the face of Russia’s war.
“Latvia will stand for a strong and effective NATO, the European Union, a law-based international order and close cooperation with our friends and allies,” Rinkevics said. “We will continue to support the heroic Ukrainian people in their struggle for freedom until the victory of Ukraine.”