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Iceland Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage & Prime Minister is Wed

July 3, 2010

I have developed a deep fascination with Iceland as of late. In early April, I wrote an article at Gender Across Borders about the country’s recent banning of strip clubs for the sake of human rights. Two weeks ago, I wrote about the same parliament’s new media initiative to protect journalism and freedom of speech worldwide. Now, I am here to tell you about their recent legalization of same-sex marriage. On Friday, June 11th, the 42% female “Alþingi” or Althingi voted unanimously 49 to 0 to include partnerships between “man and man” and “woman and woman” to the legal definition of marriage. The vote made Iceland the seventh European country—after the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Norway, Sweden and Portugal—to grant gay and lesbian couples the same rights in legally recognized marriage. According to the World Economic Forum’s “Global Gender Gap Report” from 2009, Iceland currently tops the Gender Equality list.

On Sunday June 27th, the bill went into effect. The Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, 67, and her long-time partner playwright Jónína Leósdóttir, 56, were among the first to get married, making Sigurðardóttir not only the first openly lesbian head of state worldwide but the first national leader with a same-sex spouse as well. The two had previously committed themselves to one another in a civil union in 2002. The civil union in Iceland granted them and others the same rights as heterosexual married couples but did so under a different and separate name. This legalization of gay marriage, thus, did not change their legal rights but recognized that true equality comes with the same nomenclature. Sigurðardóttir and Leósdóttir reportedly did not hold a ceremony. Instead, the two simply petitioned for their civil union to be converted into a legal marriage.

The lack of huff and puff on the matter in and around Scandinavia seems to be the story the rest of the world is telling. Two days ago, the Associated Press ran a story on Scandinavia’s extreme tolerance on the issue in comparison to other regions of the world. The article sports the ever-cycling argument that this open-mindedness on same-sex marriage is nearly impossible elsewhere. It cites the prevalence of Catholicism in other European countries as a barrier and quotes Zimbabwe leader Robert Mugabe describing same-sex partners as “lower than dogs and pigs” as exemplar of the continent of Africa’s thoughts on the matter. At the same time, however, it neglects to mention that same-sex marriage was legalized in Portugal, an incredibly Catholic nation, just a month ago and that it has been legal in South Africa for four years. While there are undeniably cultural stigmatizations impeding the progress of equal rights across the globe, I have a hard time imagining the division is as divisive as some would like us to believe. Two ardently stubborn unmoving teams battling it out just makes too good of a story. In reading about the recent changes in Iceland and Portugal, I cannot imagine that their citizens are living in black holes where political, religious and social ideology are shut off from the rest of the world. As Senior Editor Elizabeth Switaj recently wrote in her Global Feminism post at GAB, “Global feminism, at least my global feminism, begins with…the recognition that in an age of capitalistic globalization, local resistance in isolation from other movements is not enough. Everyone’s liberation is caught up in everyone else’s.” I couldn’t agree more. In lieu of this recent legislation, I say props to Iceland but also props to everyone else, to all those who are fighting daily to make same-sex marriage a realized possibility everywhere.

One Comment
  1. Don permalink
    July 4, 2010 1:37 pm

    I have also been intrigued by Iceland ever since the people lost faith/confidence in the men at running the country after the financial meltdown. Now that the women are in power it is interesting to follow the decisions they are making. It is obvious they are getting alot done with the banning of strip clubs, the new media initiative and now the legalization of same-sex marriage. And plus the women are working on getting the country out of the financial mess the men made…it’s nice to see them moving the country in the right direction.

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