Leo Varadkar, Ireland's health minister, has become the first member of Ireland's government to come out as gay.
“I am a gay man. It’s not a secret,” Varadkar said on RTÉ Radio 1 Sunday morning, The Guardian reports.
When Varadkar told Prime Minister Enda Kenny, that he planned to come out on the radio, he said Kenny told him "it was my private life, it’s a private issue, and none of this was his concern."
The health minister, who has reportedly been named as a potential successor to Kenny, said he wanted to mark his 36th birthday by being "fully honest" with Ireland's citizens. He also said he believes Ireland is ready for an openly gay prime minister.
“The only worry I have is that people see me differently or treat me differently. I hope they don’t," he said. "I am still the same person. To me it is not a big deal, I hope it is not a big deal for people. There are people a lot braver than me, but I wanted to do it. I suppose I felt as a public figure I should say it. I want the next generation to feel that they don’t have to do an interview like this.”
The historically Catholic country struck down laws barring homosexual acts in 1993, and will soon decide whether to establish marriage equality. An Irish Times opinion poll last month said 71 percent of voters there would pass a referendum to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.