The world-famous politician has announced he will step down as Berlin mayor in December – his successor could be another gay politician.
The 60-year-old told a news conference on Tuesday that he will leave the office voluntarily in the middle of his third term and that he is proud of his “contribution to the positive development of this city.“
The Social Democrat has been mayor of Berlin for 13 years, making him Germany’s longest serving head of a regional government. He made worldwide headlines after coming-out as gay at a party conference just days before his first election in 2001. In his speech, he uttered the sentence “I am gay – and that’s a good thing”. This became one of the most repeated phrases in German.
Wowereit has been re-elected twice and was once considered a possible candidate for the office of the German chancellor. However, in the last couple of years his popularity decreased due to several scandals. The mayor came under special fire for repeated delays in the construction of a new international airport, which was supposed to open in 2012 but is still under construction.
LGBT activists credit Wowereit for making politics more open towards gay people. In the years following his coming-out, several politicians of all parties came out as gay, most notably former German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle.
It’s not clear yet who will follow Wowereit as Berlin mayor. One of the favorites is the local Social Democratic party leader Jan Stöss. He is also openly gay but has so far lacked engagements in LGBT topics.