July 2, 2010
By Robert Cruickshank
One of the best headlines I ever read was back in 2001, when Bertrand Delanoë was elected mayor of Paris. The San Francisco Chronicle reported it as “Paris Beats SF to Gay Mayor.”
I have a similar reaction to the news out of Iceland this week that Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir married her longtime partner, Jonina Leosdottir, the first time that a head of state anywhere in the world has been in a same-sex wedding:
Iceland’s prime minister made history last week when she wed her longtime girlfriend, becoming the world’s first head of government to enter a gay marriage.
But fellow Nordic nations hardly noticed when 67-year-old Johanna Sigurdardottir tied the knot with her longtime partner — a milestone that would still, despite advances in gay rights, be all but inconceivable elsewhere.
Scandinavia has had a long tradition of tolerance — and cross-dressing lawmakers and gay bishops have become part of the landscape.
“There is some kind of passion for social justice here,” respected cross-dressing Swedish lawmaker Fredrick Federley said. “That everybody should be treated the same.”
The article goes on to ask the question “how would this be received around the world?” I’m not sure I agree with everything that Louise Nordstrom, the article’s author, has to say. For example:
But a gay head of government would be impossible in strong Catholic nations.
“We will never see a gay prime minister in Italy. The power of the Catholic Church is too strong,” said Giuseppina Massallo, 60, from Sicily who lives in Rome. “We have institutions that make us believe that … being homosexual is simply not the right thing to do.”
I’m not sure I buy that. Two of the most deeply Catholic nations in Europe – Spain and Portugal – have recently legalized same-sex marriage. Italy will be a tougher nut to crack, and while there aren’t currently any major parties in Spain or Portugal led by an LGBT person (to my knowledge) I could see it happening in the near future.
The AP article is almost certainly right on about how Uganda, where a brutal anti-gay law has generated controversy and strong opposition, would react:
Ugandans were shocked to hear of Sigurdardottir’s marriage to her partner with whom she had been in a registered relationship since 2002. The partnership was converted into a marriage on Sunday, when a new law legalizing same-sex marriage went into force.
“Their society is finished, they have no morals,” said Uganda’s ruling-party spokeswoman, Mary Karooro Okurutu, described the marriage as “disgusting.”
The East African nation frowns on homosexuality and is considering proposed legislation that would impose the death penalty for some gays. The bill has sparked protests in London, New York and Washington.
Here in the US, the reaction is likely going to fall out on predictable lines. Those who oppose marriage equality will either ignore this or somehow cast it as part of the great plot to destroy heterosexual marriage, and those of us who support marriage equality will rightly point to Prime Minister Sigurdardottir’s marriage as a sign that society not only survives, but thrives when adults are able to marry the person they love.
One day there will be an openly LGBT mayor of San Francisco, an openly LGBT governor of California, and yes, an openly LGBT president of the United States. But right now, there are hundreds of openly LGBT elected officials who are denied their right to equality, prevented from marrying the person they love merely because of their sexual orientation. And there are thousands of same-sex couples who are denied that right as well, whose rights matter every bit as much as the elected officials, and every bit as much as us heterosexual folks who can marry, divorce, and marry again as many times as we like.
The Prop 8 Trial Tracker will be off for the long holiday weekend. And as we enter the 4th of July holiday, it’s worth remembering the words of the Declaration of Independence. “All men [all human beings, of course] are created equal” and have a fundamental right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
It’s a bittersweet holiday when the pursuit of happiness is denied to anyone merely because of who they love.