LGBT History Month Profiles: Elio di Rupo
Elio di Rupo was born in Morlanwelz in the French-speaking part of Belgium called Wallonia. He was the only one of his siblings to be born in Belgium as opposed to Italy, where his family was originally from. His father died in a car crash when he was one year old and three of his six siblings were placed in an orphanage because his mother could not care for all of them on her own.
Di Rupo graduated from the University of Mons-Haimaut in the city of Mons in Belgium, eventually obtaining a doctoral degree in chemistry. While studying for his doctorate, he was a visiting lecturer at the University of Leeds in Yorkshire, United Kingdom. Although passionately interested in chemistry, di Rupo started his role in politics fairly early, serving as an aide in the cabinet of former prime minister Jean-Maurice Dehousse in 1980.
He served the city of Mons as a councillor between the years of 1982-1985 and 1988-2000. During this time he personally worked in ministries such as health, urban renewal and social affairs. He rose to Deputy Head of Cabinet (minister of finance) for the Walloon-led government (the ministry was later renamed finance and energy). In 1987, he was chosen as a member of the Belgian Chamber of Deputies (similar to our House of Representatives), and in 1989 served in the European Parliament.
Di Rupo later became a Senator in 1991, and Vice-Prime Minister in 1995. In late 1999, he became President of the Socialist Party. In 2005, he became Minister-President of all of French Wallonia, and continued in his role as President of the Socialist Party in Belgium.
The government collapse following the 2010 elections was a big hurdle for di Rupo, who became Prime Minister for the first time ever upon orders from the Belgian king. However, his hands were tied for months, and the government would not reopen for 18 months. He finally formed his cabinet and was sworn in as Prime Minister on December 6, 2011.
Famous for being straightforward, di Rupo has been publicly out in Belgium since 1996, when a reporter asked him if he was gay and he famously responded with a pithy, "Yes, so what?" He is currently the only openly gay head of state in the world.