Latvia's foreign minister, Edgars Rinkevics, has come out as a gay man, The Washington Blade reports.
Posting on his Twitter feed both in English and in Latvian, Rinkevics used the hashtag #ProudToBeGay, which has exploded across social media since the Apple CEO Tim Cook came out last month.
"I proudly announce I am gay," Rinkevics tweeted. "Good luck all of you."
Now, in recognition of the Latvian foreign minister's coming out, the hashtag "#ProudOfEdgars" is gaining momentum on Twitter.
The foreign minister's decision to come out is made all the more courageous considering that Latvia, a former Soviet republic, is no bastion of liberalism in the style of western Europe. In fact, the Latvian legislature once considered a bill similar to Russia's nationwide ban on so-called gay propaganda, which criminalizes any positive expressions about being LGBT that might be observed by minors. The author of that law recently called for a "lifetime ban" on Tim Cook in Russia.
Although lawmakers in the capital of Riga ultimately failed to pass a Latvian bill banning "Homosexual Propaganda," they did succeed in defining marriage as strictly between a man and a woman, thereby banning same-sex marriage.
"I think it is one of the most amazing things," Kaspars Zalitis of the Latvian LGBT rights organization, Mozaika, told The Blade while en route home from Uganda -- itself a country that recently had its own draconian antigay law overturned on a technicality in court. "The minister just proved that change is possible and I am very proud of him and my country."
International human rights groups were quick to praise Rinkevics and to call on officals in more liberal countries to support the foreign minister and others fighting for tolerance and equality for LGBT people in Latvia and beyond.
"Rinkevics' tweet is not only an important step forward in his own personal journey, but is also a strong encouragement to Latvia's human rights defenders and the LGBT community, who have faced discrimination and ongoing attempts by lawmakers to pass laws that infringe on their basic human rights," said Human Rights First's Shawn Gaylord in a statement. "We urge the U.S. government and the international community to work together to protect Rinkevics' and other members of Latvia's LGBT community from persecution and discrimination, and to press the Latvian government to prevent the passage of discriminatory laws and policies."
Riga recently hosted the International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex Association's yearly conference in Europe.