WESTERWELLEJoernPollex:Getty

In socially conservative Germany, an openly gay man, representing a politics of free enterprise and limited government, will now become vice-chancellor and foreign minister:

The FDP leader is best known at home for his espousal of Thatcherite economic reforms. But it is his position on Afghanistan that will make him the welcome face of Germany's foreign policy among the country's allies. While Germany's deployment to Afghanistan has become increasingly unpopular, Mr Westerwelle has emerged as the most powerful and articulate proponent of sustained involvement in the war. The Free Democrats' support for nuclear energy means that the country is likely to reverse an isolationist decision to mothball the industry within the decade.

Westerwelle is now the world's leading non-leftist gay leader. His politics are eclectic: for example, he favors removing the last American nuclear weapons from Germany. He came out formally five years ago. The Germans paid no mind.

Meanwhile, in America, there are almost no openly gay politicians, and one major party seeks to marginalize and disenfranchise gay people, stripping them of all relationship rights, and running ad campaigns focused on the "threat" that openly gay couples pose to schoolkids.

The other party, while offering lip service to gay equality and being disproportionately financed by gay donors, enforces the federal ban on gay soldiers, refuses to repeal the law that requires the federal government to treat gay couples as strangers to one another, and has no openly gay people in any but minor roles in government.

As the world moves forward, Washington has more in common with developing countries in its treatment of its own gay citizens than with the civilized world. And this president and Congress have no intention of changing that in any foreseeable future. The opposition is even worse - with discrimination against homosexuals written into its party platform. They even want to amend the federal constitution to enshrine gay people as second class citizens and moral pariahs.

Yep: America was the model for many of these other countries' evolution on gay rights. But, while American society has made huge strides in acceptance and inclusion, American federal government remains hostage to bigotry and fear.

(Photo: Guido Westerwelle, party leader of the Free Democratic Party (FDP), attends a press conference of the FDP on September 28, 2009 in Berlin, Germany. FDP reached 14.6 percent in German federal elections and the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) won a new term in German elections and looked set to be able to form her preferred centre-right coalition with the FDP. By Joern Pollex/Getty.)

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.