Rome: The world’s oldest republic has established itself as among the most progressive after naming the world’s first openly gay head of state.
San Marino, the medieval micro-state surrounded on all sides by the rolling hills of central Italy, has appointed 58-year-old Paolo Rondelli as one of two captains regent, its heads of state.
Rondelli is a deputy in the Great and General Council, San Marino’s parliament, and he was the country’s ambassador to the US for nine years, ending in 2016. In addition to his roles with the state, Rondelli has been an outspoken LGBT activist.
Though the captains regent are San Marino’s highest elected officials, they do not hold executive power. The other captain regent, Oscar Mina, previously held the role in 2009. Both men will serve six-month terms.
San Marino was founded in the year 301 and is one of only a handful of medieval European city-states that have survived to the present day, along with Andorra, Liechtenstein and Monaco. It is home to fewer than 35,000 citizens.
Luxembourg’s prime minister, Xavier Bettel, and the Serbian prime minister, Ana Brnabić, count among gay heads of government, but Rondelli is the first openly gay head of state.
The appointment is a significant step for San Marino, where homosexuality was punishable by jail time until 2004. It fits into a broad trend that includes legal recognition of gay couples in 2016 and legalised abortion since last year.
“San Marino had previously started on a path of a profound revolution on the subject of rights,” said Arcigay Rimini, a gay rights organisation in the Italian city of Rimini, less than 10 miles from San Marino. “This path, seen from the point of view of bogged-down Italy [where an anti-homophobic violence bill was voted down in the Senate last year] is astounding.”