Words: Will Stroude
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar painted a perfect picture in Washington this week when he took his boyfriend to an official meeting with Mike Pence.
Mr Varadkar, who became Ireland's first openly gay leader following his election in 2017, made sure his partner, Dublin doctor Matt Barrett, was stood firmly at his side as he met the evangelical, gay 'conversion' therapy-supporting US Vice-President and his wife on Thursday (14 March).
The group were celebrating a St Patrick’s Day breakfast at the vice-presidential residence at the Naval Observatory, and Mr Varadkar made sure to make some rather pointed remarks about love, acceptance, and equality during the visit.
Vice President Mike Pence invited me and Matt to his home at the Naval Observatory this morning. It’s great to be back here for a really warm reception. pic.twitter.com/Wkh2Ic8lWP— Leo Varadkar (@campaignforleo) March 14, 2019
“I lived in a country where if I’d tried to be myself at the time, it would have ended up breaking laws,” he said.
“But today, that is all changed. I stand here, leader of my country, flawed and human, but judged by my political actions, and not by my sexual orientation, my skin tone, gender or religious beliefs.”
Thanks to the Vice President and his sister for a lovely morning at his home. What a great way to start this St Patrick’s weekend pic.twitter.com/2tzLEOTTpt— Leo Varadkar (@campaignforleo) March 14, 2019
During his years in public office, former Indiana Governor Pence has opposed anti-LGBT discrimination legislation, same-sex marriage and civil unions, inclusive transgender bathroom policies, and even federal money being used to support LGBT organisations.
In 2015, while serving as governor, Mr Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law allowing Indiana businesses to discriminate against LGBT+ people on religious grounds.
Mr Varadkar, 40, first discussed his sexuality publicly in 2016, after campaigning for equality in Ireland's 2015 referendum on same-sex marriage.
He said: "It's not something that defines me. I'm not a half-Indian politician, or a doctor politician or a gay politician for that matter. It's just part of who I am, it doesn't define me, it is part of my character I suppose".
The Irish PM isn't the only gay world leader who's been using his position to take a stand for equality recently: Just last month, Luxembourg's gay Prime Minister Xavier Bettel used his appearance at an EU-Arab League summit to challenge Arab leaders over their stance on LGBT rights.