Iceland president, Guðni Jóhannesson wore a rainbow bracelet to a meeting with Mike Pence. And it was no coincidence.
Wednesday, September 4, Iceland’s president Guðni Jóhannesson met with the US vice president Mike Pence at Höfði house in Reykjavík for official talks. Mike Pence is know for his stance against the rights of LGBT+ people so it garnered attention that Mr. Jóhannesson was wearing a rainbow bracelet, and so was his wife Eliza Reid.
Wearing a rainbow bracelet at the meeting was no coincidence, since president Mr. Jóhannesson is known in Iceland as an advocate for LGBT+ rights.
“I feel that it’s a matter of course to support everybody’s fight for human rights in society, queer people’s as well as others’.”
Mr. Jóhannesson, or simply Guðni, was elected the 6th President of the Republic on 25th June in 2016 and was inaugurated on 1st of August. One of his first acts in office was participating in the Reykjavík Pride festival in Iceland that week, but not only was it the first time that the President of Iceland got involved, it was also the first time that a president officially participates in any Pride festival, anywhere, ever.
By then the Prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, had of course made waves already by participating in Pride marches in various Canadian cities, but as President, Guðni was the first President to do so.
When asked by GayIceland’s reporter Ingibjörg Rósa why he feel it was important to support queer people’s fight for rights and to show publicly where he stands on the issue, he replied: “I feel that it’s a matter of course to support everybody’s fight for human rights in society, queer people’s as well as others’. Thankfully, our society is moving in the right direction and if I can do anything to help the cause then I’m honoured to do so.”
Last year, it became very clear that these weren’t empty words. That year the National Queer Organization of Iceland, Samtökin ´78, celebrated their 40th anniversary in June and it was announced that Guðni had become patron of the organization. Reporter Ingibjörg Rósa spoke to the president again who even shared with her the story that as a child he had been bullied and called a faggot. “I remember the late Guðni Baldursson being the first chair of Samtökin ´78 and one of the things I can recall from my childhood is being teased and called “Guðni hommi, Guðni hommi” (e. faggot) just because we shared the same name.”
In the interview Guðni went on to say that he believes in general in the usefulness of dialog and he believes that you should engage and try to influence rather than refuse to meet with certain persons outright. He also said: “I feel that being patron is not an empty gesture. I feel that it creates an obligation on my part to speak out when appropriate.”
“When it comes to queer rights and the queer community I just believe in freedom of love and diversity in society.”
Something Guðni has showed on numerous occasions. Like the time when he wore the same rainbow bracelet when meeting the President of Russia Vladimar Putin who supports many anti-LGBT+ policies. Something that he and his wife Eliza also made very clear when meeting with Mike Pence this week. Or as Guðni said in his own words: “When it comes to queer rights and the queer community I just believe in freedom of love and diversity in society. And in general the queer community in Iceland conducts its campaign and outlook in a way that I like and support.”
Main photo: Håkon Broder Lund