A veritable gay-marriage arms race happened in Europe last month. British Prime Minister David Cameron, a vocal champion of same-sex marriage, was re-elected with an overwhelming majority on May 7 — proving that supporting marriage equality is not a political career killer.

The people of Ireland became the first in the world to legalize same-sex marriage by an overwhelming popular vote on May 23. But eight days earlier, something happened that totally escaped my attention.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel married his partner, Gauthier Destenay of Belgium, in a small ceremony on May 15. I just happened to learn about their wedding while hunting for the best picture to go with a previous post. My “what an attractive couple” thought was replaced by “Holy smokes!” when I read who they were.

The wedding in the smaller-than-Rhode-Island duchy wedged among Germany, Belgium and France makes Bettel the first European Union leader to marry a same-sex partner. But he’s only the second nationally elected leader in the world to do so. The now-former prime minister of Iceland became the first when she married in 2010.

Think about what has happened in the last month. One nation re-elected a conservative leader who supported marriage equality. Another nation with strong Catholic roots went to the ballot box to make it legal. And another mostly Catholic country with a reputation for conservatism watched its prime minister marry his longtime partner less than a year after same-sex marriage was legalized there.

Europe’s leaders haven’t engaged in silly contortions about whether they would attend a same-sex wedding. They have moved way past that. That’s what leaders do.

U.S. Republicans with presidential aspirations should take note.

Jonathan Capehart is a member of The Washington Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.


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