An Historical Day to Be Gay

Published July 14, 2006

Ten years ago, a law was passed in Iceland that allowed homosexual couples to enter into a civil union. Four years later, in 2000, they were granted the right to adopt the biological children of their partner. On June 27, 2006, a new law was passed in the Icelandic parliament that finally placed homosexual couples on equal footing with heterosexual couples. They are now allowed to register their partnership, and have the same rights as anybody else when it comes to adoption and artificial reproduction procedures. This eliminates almost all discrimination against homosexuals in the system, with the exception of being allowed to register as a couple in religious organisations, which is still not possible. This milestone in the history of gay rights in Iceland was celebrated at the Reykjavík Art Museum on June 30th. The Prime Minister of Iceland and a member of parliament, among others, addressed the crowd. Three people who were more than just proud to attend the event discussed their thoughts on the legislation, politics and their plans to get married. They are artist Kristín Eysteinsdóttir, Hrafnkell Tjörvi Stefánsson, the managing director of Samtökin ’78 (The Icelandic Association for Lesbians and Gay Men) Hrafnkell Tjörvi, and Davíð Jóhannsson, a group leader at Síminn telephone company (Iceland Telecom).

What does this legislation mean to you? Is it important to you?

Eysteinsdóttir: This means an incredible amount to me. I now have the same options when it comes to my relationships as heterosexuals do. I have lesbian friends who, up until now, had to go to Denmark to get artificially inseminated, which is both expensive and complicated. It’s not exactly easy to drop whatever you’re doing and jump on a plane whenever you’re ovulating. I think this will have an even bigger impact on homosexual men, because they now have the option to adopt children and start a family.

Jóhannsson: Overall, I think this legislation was long overdue. It is definitely important to me, but not in praxis at this point in my life. Perhaps in the future, if I plan on having kids.

Stefánsson: Personally, I’m very happy that I live in a civilised society that is leading in the world when it comes to human rights. What pleases me most is that there was cross-political solidarity on the issue. It’s completely unique. Few other countries have come as far as Iceland has, but it’s unheard of that all political parties agree on furthering gay rights under a right-wing government. It’s proof of good will and understanding.

How was it to finally register as a couple?

Eysteinsdóttir: I went to the registry office and applied, and the lady behind the counter asked me: “Is he here with you?” I didn’t even understand what she meant at first, I thought she was referring to my father or something, but then I realised that she probably thought my partner was male. I replied that my partner is a woman, and the lady instantly apologised. She wasn’t prejudiced. She just wasn’t used to it.

What’s the next issue for the gay rights movement in Iceland?

Stefánsson: Legislation is one thing, public acceptance is another. A majority of our nation supports gay rights, but passing laws is not enough. For example, men and women are supposed to be equal under the law, but equality has still not been achieved in many cases. The same thing can be said of disabled people and those who are not of Caucasian origin. Homophobia needs to be addressed in various places, for example in sports. We also need to change things in the education system, by including different family types in the curriculum and educating people about them.

Eysteinsdóttir: I think the church is at the centre of the debate. A lot of homosexuals are religious, and everybody should have the same options. Fríkirkjan (The Independent Church) blesses homosexual marriages, setting a good example other churches should follow. A majority of our society supports gay rights, and the church should try to keep up with the people. My partner and I are getting married in August. When we tell people about it, we often get the response, “Good for you, that’s such a statement.” It makes us feel like we’re getting married for political reasons, which is not true. We’re getting married because we want to. This is an example of hidden prejudice in our society, which still exists.

Jóhannsson: I’m very pleased with the recent change in events. It’s time to stop and take a deep breath. We need to realise that perhaps we don’t always need to be fighting for something. I think we should allow this to settle before we start focusing on the next step. I’m very happy with what just happened.



Mag
Opinion
<?php the_title(); ?>

Down To The Dog Den

by

Anyone familiar with the vertical structure of just about all workplaces—from old school industries and services to the arts, to the innovation and public sectors—understands the universal logic of The Boss. No matter how pleasant it might feel to fulfil one’s working tasks and hours; irrelevant of how invisible the allegedly inherent antagonism between the social hierarchy’s different layers might seem; no matter how much one might actually doubt the current relevance of an analysis based on the concept of hierarchy—or even the very existence of the phenomenon itself; at the end of the day there’s no question about the

Mag
Opinion
<?php the_title(); ?>

What If Sunday is on the Phone to Monday?

by

Nothing like a country that every day walks further down the path of its own inexorable decline. Nothing better than an ever more provincial country run by a rotating crew of the same incompetents, dishonest, corrupted by their support of a permanently and totally corrupt regime. What is better than living in a land where justice is a bazaar? What artist wouldn’t dream of such a nation? —Said filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard in the 1980′s, regarding France. Mutatis mutandis … we are not there yet. Iceland seems corrupt yes, at times fundamentally so. And yet the work may not be completed.

Mag
Opinion
<?php the_title(); ?>

The Best Place In The World To Be A Woman?

by

Women are reportedly more equal to men in Iceland than any other place in the world. But does this mean that we have reached the goal of gender equality? In international media and discourse, Iceland is often portrayed as the best place to be a woman. We certainly use it to market ourselves to tourists and boast of it in our own media. This is in large part due to the recognition we have received from the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index. For four years in a row now, Iceland has been ranked as number one on the

Mag
Opinion
<?php the_title(); ?>

So What’s This I Hear About Iceland Being The 17th Best Country In The World?

by

Something called The Good Country Index was published recently. It is a list of 125 countries ranked according how much good they do in the world, from Ireland at the top to Libya at 125th. As a marketing stunt, it was brilliant, generating a few hundred thousand news articles around the globe. It was, predictably enough, conceived by a marketing guy who, even more predictably enough, paid someone else to do all the hard work. You can take a wild guess at which one got most of the media attention. The guy who did all the work? No. But let

Mag
Opinion
<?php the_title(); ?>

Ask Not on Whom the Sun Shines

by

If the State Prosecutor decides to take the Interior Ministry to court, for breach of confidentiality, slander, and abuse of public office against two asylum seekers, the Capital Area Police will in all likelihood handle the criminal investigation, as it has until now. Since the police is subordinate to the Interior Ministry, the police thereby investigates its own superiors. There seems to exist little, if any, protocol for that, which calls for some improvisation. Which is the best way forward? Which way towards a convincing, ethical code of conduct? Should the Minister resign? —No, you are confusing Iceland with some

Mag
Opinion
<?php the_title(); ?>

Ungoo

by

[Continued from Ungoo: Part IX] Earlier this year, a free-trade agreement between Iceland and China took effect. Iceland is the first, and so far the only, European country to make such an arrangement with the People’s Republic of. No one knows what that means. Literally no one. Perhaps some politicians, administrative staff or business managers think they do: they probably have some rough estimates about the agreement’s effects on our GDP, and at some point may have read an article or two about whether or not China has any imperial ambitions in the arctic. By and large, they would seem

Show Me More!