Ten Years Since The Legalisation Of Same-Sex Marriage In Iceland

Ten Years Since The Legalisation Of Same-Sex Marriage In Iceland

Published June 12, 2020

Nico Borbely
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Ten years have passed since same-sex marriage was signed into law in Iceland, Morgunblaðið reports. Before the legalization, same-sex couples were able to officially register domestic partnerships, but they could not get married.

The legalization of same-sex marriage in 2010 eliminated this particular distinction between same-sex and straight couples.

Ragna Árnadóttir, who was the Minister of Justice when the legalisation was passed, said that it was a logical step in the fight for LGBT+ rights.

“This is surely a big step, and is in fact a completely natural continuation in the fight for gay rights and the fight for their right to a normal family life,” said Ragna on the occasion of the legalization in 2010.

Progressive steps had already been taken at the time, such as the legalization of same-sex adoption in 2006.

Marriage At Last

Filmmaker and LGBT+ rights activist Hrafnhildur Gunnarsdóttir says that the change to marriage from domestic partnerships has been an important step. “In fact, our rights are leveling out with those of straight people, because as long as there are specific laws about a group of people, that puts them in a strange position,” says Hrafnhildur.

Domestic partnerships were a resort available only to same-sex couples, but involving the same rights and obligations as marriage for heterosexual couples. It was eliminated when same-sex marriage was signed into law in 2010.

Hrafnhildur goes on to say that the legalization was tremendously important for her on a personal level, as she and her wife were married after the legalization took place. “I finally found myself able to take this step,” she says.

More same-sex couples took this step after the legalization, for example Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir and Jónína Leósdóttir, who got married the same day the legalization took place. Jóhanna is the former Prime Minister of Iceland and the world’s first openly lesbian head-of-state, in addition to a published biographer; Jónína is an author and playwright who, in addition to publishing eleven novels and a dozen plays, published a memoir called With Jóhanna detailing the story of their relationship in 2013.

The Greatest Change Of Opinion Was In 1996

When asked whether the change in attitude regarding the 2010 legalization of same-sex marriage had triggered a change in opinion in Icelandic society, Hrafnhildur says that it probably was not as great as the legalization of same-sex domestic partnerships in 1996.

She believes that there was already considerable awareness regarding LGBT+ rights in Icelandic society by 2010, and that the legalization of same-sex marriage that year had, to some extent, been a reaction to it. She says that the legalization has mattered a lot in relation to the church.

She mentions that for five years following the legalization, priests from the National Church could refuse to marry same-sex couples for personal reasons. Priest objection on grounds of freedom of conscience was finally outlawed in 2015. “It took five years to get the church in line, and I think the legalization made a huge difference in this particular battle,” Hrafnhildur concludes.

Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir, the Bishop of the National Church of Iceland, issued an official apology to the LGBT+ community in late October 2019, expressing deep regret for having “caused pain, trouble, and hardship over the years…” When confirming that priests would not be allowed to refuse to marry same-sex couples for personal reasons back in 2015, she added that “…the Church is primarily a channel of the love of Christ and celebrates life in all its diversity.”

Note: Due to the effect the Coronavirus is having on tourism in Iceland, it’s become increasingly difficult for the Grapevine to survive. If you enjoy our content and want to help the Grapevine’s journalists do things like eat and pay rent, please consider joining our High Five Club.

You can also support us by checking out our shop, loaded with books, apparel and other cool merch, that you can buy and have delivered right to your door.

Support The Reykjavík Grapevine!
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!

Show Me More!