The microstate of San Marino has just elected an openly gay head of state, becoming the first country in the world to do so.
Paolo Rondelli, 58, was elected one of two “captains regent” of San Marino, one of the world’s oldest and smallest republics which has just 34,000 inhabitants.
He was elected on 1 April and will share the position with Oscar Mina for six months. They will be presiding over the nations’ Grand and General General.
“I’ll probably be the world’s first LGBT+ head of state,” Rondelli said in a Facebook post. “And that’s how we crash…”
Rondelli is a deputy in the Grand and General Council, San Marino’s parliament. He was an ambassador to the US until 2016.
Furthermore, he is a vocal advocate for the rights of LGBT+ people, Monica Cirinnà, Italian senator and LGBT+ activist, said in a post.
“It’s a historic day, that fills me with joy and pride, because Paolo Rondelli will be the first head of the state belonging to the LGBT+ community, not only in San Marino, but in the world,” Cirinnà added.
Arcigay Rimini, an LGBT+ rights organisation based in neighbouring Rimini, thanked Rondelli for “his service to the LGBTI community” and for fighting “for the rights of all” in a Facebook post.
Though Rondelli is the first known LGBT+ head of state, many nations have elected queer heads of government, including Luxembourg’s prime minister, Xavier Bettel and the Serbian prime minister, Ana Brnabić.
Arcigay Rimini said it hoped that Italy will follow San Marino’s example “from this path of progress and civil rights”.
Italy has been criticised for being slow to take action on LGBT+ rights. Last year, its senate blocked a bill to tackle hate crimes against women, LGBT+ people and those with disabilities after an unprecedented intervention by the Vatican.
“It is expected that Italy should take an example from this path of civil progress and rights,” Arcigay Rimini added. According to ANSA, Rondelli was formerly a vice-president of the organisation.
San Marino introduced legal recognition for same-sex couples in 2016. This was a significant step for the state, where homosexuality was punishable by jail time until 2004.
San Marino was founded in the early fourth century. Surrounded by the Italian mountains, it is one of a few city-states in Europe that survived to the present day, along with Andorra, Liechtenstein and Monaco.