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Pride around the World: Iceland

The island nation of Iceland is often referred to as one of the most LGBT-friendly countries in the world. It’s considered a beacon of diversity where over a 100,000 citizens, a third of the total population, attend the annual Reykjavík Pride Parade. But it hasn’t always been that way. In fact, very little information about the nation’s LGBT history prior to 1970 has been found, as many were most likely too afraid to speak out, and those who did had their stories altered.

This silence held until 1975 when local celebrity Hörður Torfason left the country after being ostracized for coming out as gay. This event was the last push needed to bring the movement to the starting line in 1978 when the first and now national queer organization in Iceland Samtökin 78’ was formed, propelling the movement into the spotlight.

The group fought long and hard for 18 years, staging campaigns, public protests and debates to gather support from the citizens as well as gay rights organizations in other Nordic countries. This dedication is what brought Samtökin 78’ to its first major win, the legalization of Registered Cohabitation for gay couples nationwide in 1996. General anti-discrimination laws, adoption and the first Reykjavík Pride came next. On June 27, 2010, Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir walked down the wedding aisle, the day same-sex marriage became legal.

While Iceland has become a peaceful place for the LGBT community, many of the locals don’t believe that their work in improving the situation is over. Samtökin 78’ and the government are currently working together to strengthen the rights of transgender individuals in the nation. They’re also collaborating with institutes such as the University of Iceland to provide more education to the public on the subject.


1940 Homosexual activity becomes legal in Iceland, though discrimination still continued.  1992 The age of consent is equalized for both same-sex and opposite-sex relations. 1996 Sexual orientation is added to the country’s anti-discrimination law for goods and services. The Icelandic parliament passes the Law on Registered Partnerships, legalizing registered cohabitation. 1999 The First Reyjavik Pride parade is held in Ingolfstorg on June 26, with 1,500 guests attending. The next year’s festival attracts 12,000 guests. 2006  Adoption for same-sex couples becomes legal. 2010 The government unanimously approves a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. 2012 The parliament votes to enforce a new law that relaxes rules surrounding gender identity and allows comprehensive recognition of acquired gender and gender identity protections. 2014 The parliament amends gender identity to the list of anti-discrimination grounds. 2021 Transgender individuals are given the option to select a third gender on official documents. 2022 Gay and bisexual men can legally donate blood after a four-month deferral or waiting period. Source: Equaldex,


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Did you know that in June 1997, 2,000 people took to the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil to protest discriminatory laws against the LGBTQ community in that country? More details coming up next week where we discuss Pride in Brazil.