The Icelandic presidential election will be held on June the 25th. The race is shaping up to be an interesting one with nine candidates running. We decided to ask what their thoughts are on queer rights.
We asked them two questions: Will you exercise your power to fight for the queer rights movement if elected president?
And if you’re elected president of Iceland, will you let Iceland’s stance on the queer rights movement be known when traveling to areas of the world where these rights are broken?
Ástþór Magnússon is running for president for the fourth time. He is an interesting character who usually gets his message across using inventive and creative ways. But what is his take on the queer rights movement?
“I believe that the battle for queer rights has been won in Iceland and that queer people now have the same basic human rights as other individuals in society,” says Ástþór and goes on to answer the latter question.
“I believe that the battle for queer rights has been won in Iceland and that queer people now have the same basic human rights as other individuals in society.”
“As president I will do my best to make sure that human rights are respected all over the world and I want Iceland to lead the way in those matters.”
Sturla Jónsson has also run before and his stance on the matter is clear.
“No matter which sex or color we are, we should all have the same human rights and we should respect the rights of others. It’s that simple. It’s written in our constitution.”
Sturla however believes in focusing on Icelandic society before reaching out to the world.
“If I am elected president I will first and foremost focus on the people of Iceland.
So many rights are being broken right here and I believe you first have to tidy your own garden before you offer to help the neighbors with their gardening work. That has been my vision since I was born.”
Business woman Halla Tómasdóttir believes in basic human rights for everyone.
“Yes. The queer rights movement is important, not only for the queer individuals themselves but also for the whole of society.
I want to live in a diverse society where everyone can find ways to make their talent blossom and do their society some good. The queer rights movement is extremely relevant in that aspect,” says Halla.
“Iceland should take charge and guide other nations regarding equal rights matters. Especially when it comes to queer issues … it is an obligation of any elected official … to raise awareness.”
“I feel that Iceland should take charge and guide other nations regarding equal rights matters. Especially when it comes to queer issues. I feel that it is an obligation of any elected official to raise awareness internationally and speak for the groups of people who are discriminated against.”
A mini Pride parade after breakfast
There are two writers in the group of candidates. One of them is Andri Snær Magnason who is also an outspoken environmentalist.
“The Reykjavík Pride Parade has the characteristics of a day of national celebration, much like the ones that were once so apparent on June the 17th, Iceland’s national day. At the Pride Parade you don’t see boy scouts carrying flags because they have to, but people who carry their flag with pure pride. You see a group of people who have fought for their cause and won battles. This group knows that freedom and independence is not a given thing or worn out words from the mouth of politicians,” says Andri Snær.
He will indeed let his voice be heard internationally regarding the queer rights movement. “At the pride parade you see a lot of people who have suppressed their feelings, hid them, been punished for them and been victims to prejudice, discrimination and even violence. You see men that have been driven away from their own country. What you should see are people who took their own life for fear of banishment. You see relatives and friends stepping forward and showing solidarity to their loved ones. The fact that the Icelandic people flock to The Reykjavík Pride Parade each year makes it a huge success because the acceptance of society is a vital part of the queer rights movement.”
“I could contribute to the queer rights movement by dressing up in a Pride costume each morning … I could also put little rainbow flags all over the grass surrounding Bessastaðir, the presidential estate.”
Elísabet Jökulsdóttir is another writer in the group. Her approach is somewhat more creative than most. “I thought I could contribute to the queer rights movement by dressing up in a Pride costume each morning and have a mini Pride walk on my own down the street when I’ve finished my breakfast. You see, I am a very fun person and I want to have fun. I could also put the rainbow flag up on the presidential car once in a while and maybe put little rainbow flags all over the grass surrounding Bessastaðir, the presidential estate. My granddaughter is a lesbian and I have millions of friends who are queer so this is a matter dear to my heart.”
Elísabet doesn’t take these issues lightly even though she attacks them with a sense of humor. She believes in making an impact when traveling the world. “The persecution of queer people is a very serious matter. It makes me angry and powerless. People are brought up by society to fear what’s different and people are, for example, executed in Iran just for being homosexual. I think if I were to receive an invitation to, let’s say Russia, that I would show up wearing a ski mask in the spirit of Pussy Riot. If you can’t make an impact in protected parties where everyone is filthy rich I don’t know where you can. These world leaders should be able to change things with something as simple as education.”
Nobody is “normal”
Guðrún Margrét Pálsdóttir is no stranger when it comes to human rights issues since she is one of the founders of the charity organization ABC Children’s Aid. She believes that each individual on this planet is valuable, as does Hildur Þórðardóttir, a healer that is a firm believer of teaching by example.
“As president of Iceland I will do my best to make sure that human rights are respected. I’m a visionary and I’ve worked on the human rights cause all over the world for the last three decades. I will continue to be a spokesperson for those who have had their human rights violated in any way and queer people are of course a part of that group,” says Guðrún Margrét Pálsdóttir.
She stands by her Christian beliefs that we should treat people like we would like to be treated. “When I travel the world as president I will bring focus to the groups in society that are in a difficult position at any given country. I will try to open national leaders’ eyes and widen their understanding of the issues of the groups in question. I went on a year-long trip around the world thirty years ago which opened my eyes to how many people live in poor conditions, who have nothing, are illiterate, are fighting hunger and persecution. Illiterate people and the homeless, especially street children, are close to my heart but I will of course try to help everyone, who has their human rights violated, to the best of my ability. I will draw attention to the values we Icelanders live by as Christians; that each individual is valuable and that we should treat others like we want to be treated. That applies to all citizens of our community,” says Guðrún.
“I especially adore the great divas and cross-dressing and think it is a fantastic way to learn about gender and social conditioning. Why can’t people dress the way they want to?”
Hildur Þórðardóttir will support the queer rights movement in any way she can if she’ll be elected president. “Everyone is equally important and precious and relationships are in my opinion based on love and respect, not which gender the two people are. Being gay can be very empowering if the person is open about it. Going against the norm or the flow makes us stronger and can help us accept ourselves exactly the way we are. Self acceptance is a lesson that we all need to learn, no matter what our sexual preferences are.
I think the gay culture enriches our society greatly in so many ways. It expands our horizon and broadens our perspective. I especially adore the great divas and cross-dressing and think it is a fantastic way to learn about gender and social conditioning. Why can’t people dress the way they want to? Why do we need to judge those who dare to be different? Why do we judge at all?
The gay movement is in many ways a powerful forerunner for other marginalized groups and socially shamed persons. In that way the gay movement is vital for our development as a healthy and shame-free society.
It is very important that it is not forced to hide underground but welcomed into the open. It helps us accept others the way they are and thereby also accepting ourselves the way we are. Nobody is “normal”, even though some people try very hard to be. Everyone is different and equally beautiful and precious. We are all one, brothers and sisters, at the same time as we are all different. Just like flowers in a garden seem like an ocean of color, yet are all different, individually beautiful and perfect in their own way,” says Hildur.
She believes in the power of education and understanding in an international sense. “Yes, I will draw attention to gay rights everywhere I travel abroad as president, just as I will promote peace and compassion for all people wherever I go. Even though the host country is hostile towards gays or very prone to warfare, every word of understanding and peace is like a seed that will someday sprout and grow into a beautiful plant.
I think it is best to teach by example, so by creating a community that openly accepts gay people, we show how to make a caring and broad-minded society. Other societies will follow when they are ready. That reform has to come from within, so by giving attention and support to gay communities in other countries can be very empowering and valuable for them. As long as it doesn’t endanger the people involved.”
A firm believe in the freedom of love
The historian Guðni Th. Jóhannesson has been a front runner in the polls leading up to the election. He belives in equality for all.
“The president should always be concerned with equality. All discrimination and prejudice should be fought against. Also, I am a firm believer in the freedom of love so the short answer would be: Yes,” says Guðni and continues.
“The president is the nation’s advocate abroad, our face in the eyes of the world. Iceland has become known the world around for the positive changes in the rights of LGBTI+ persons. I would proudly reflect that. The freedom of love should exist outside of Iceland as well.”
We finish off with the former prime minister of Iceland and former mayor of Reykjavík, mister Davíð Oddsson. Davíð has long been a fighter for queer rights and that will not change if he gets elected president.
“I exerted myself in these matters when I was mayor like Þorvaldur Kristinsson, the former director of the national queer organisation Samtökin ’78 can verify. During that time the fight for the queer cause had come a much shorter distance than it has now,” says Davíð, who was mayor of Reykjavík from 1982 to 1991.
“I will without a doubt protect the human rights of queer folk.”
He adds that he will indeed raise the issue when traveling abroad. “I will without a doubt protect the human rights of queer folk.”