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Diplomats Gather for the Second Year for Capital Pride

By; Morgan Caplan

“[A] wonderful expression of strong commitment, love, support, togetherness,” Swedish Ambassador Björn Lyrvall said referring to the annual Capital Pride Parade held in Washington, D.C. “A festival of color, of diversity, and of openness.”

The parade through Dupont Circle is just that: a festival of thousands of people joining in solidarity, with rainbow flags held high in support of equality and diversity.

This year, however, protesters disrupted the parade. The protesters were from No Justice No Pride, a D.C. organization that seeks to redirect power and attention to communities that have historically been central players in the LGBT movement such as transgender women of color. It believes that Pride marginalizes such voices through corporate control.

Even with this mild disruption, the parade continued on a different route, as parade officials anticipated that an event similar to this would occur. This didn’t stop the thousands of LGBT rights supporters decked in their colorful attire and feather boas, including Lyrvall, from marching.

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The Nordic Embassies enjoy their second year of the gay pride parade decked in their rainbow attire. From left, Deputy Chief of Mission from the Embassy of Iceland Erlingur Erlingsson; Swedish Ambassador Björn Lyrvall; Finnish Ambassador Kirsti Kauppi; Norwegian Ambassador Kåre R. Aas; and Danish Ambassador Lars Gert Lose.  (Photo: Embassy of Finland)

"The atmosphere there, it’s something that I think would be really difficult to find anywhere else, just with the thousands of people there surrounding,” Sanna Kangasharju, the Embassy of Finland’s press counselor said ecstatically. "And you actually have a chance to connect with the people. I think it is very important that we are there also showing, being there visibly and confidently, that we support these things.”

Two years since the Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage, support for the measure has increased by seven percent, according to the Pew Research Center. Sixty-two percent of Americans now say they are in favor of same-sex marriage and only 32 percent oppose it.

Along with Sweden, the four other Nordic countries- Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway- also participated in the Capital Pride Parade, the second year for each. Despite tumultuous times for LGBT rights under the Trump administration, the Nordic countries are the forerunners of LGBT rights in Europe, according to their progressive legislature, as equality is a focus internationally and domestically for each respective country.

pride 2
Over a hundred family members, friends and officials of the Nordic embassies marched together in solidarity during the parade.  (Photo: Embassy of Finland)

Working with international organizations such Human Rights Watch, Freedom House and Global Equality Fund is one way the Nordic ambassadors support the LGBT community.

“Our aim is to make the world a more accepting place, one step at a time,” Storm Horncastle, public relations officer at the Norwegian Embassy, said, referring to the embassy’s continued participation in Pride month.

Many of the Nordic countries created laws that prohibit any type of discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual preference. Norway decriminalized male homosexuality as early as 1972.

Denmark was the first country in the world to grant legal recognition to same-sex “registered partnerships” in 1989, and a new same-sex marriage law later replaced it in 2012.
 
“[T]oday it is an integral part of our history, our culture and our political system,” Lars Gert Lose, ambassador of Denmark, said. “We don’t even think about it in our daily lives. But it has not always been like that. It took years of political will to get to this point.”

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The Nordic ambassadors join the thousands of spectators to march for equality.  (Photo: Embassy of Finland)

The Nordic region has come a long way to be so tolerant and accepting. It is now a region with one of the highest levels of these values and promotion of equality, according to a Huffington Post article on the region. The countries’ participation in the parade and other Pride festivities shows their continued support and lasting efforts to bring equality to all.

Over 100 people from the Nordic countries participated in the parade this year including family members, friends, ambassadors and officials from the embassy. A few days prior, the embassies partnered with the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, to hold a Twitter Town Hall in light of Pride month that allowed the public to ask questions about equality and LGBT rights in their respective countries.

Equality is engrained in the Nordic countries’ values. The fight is not over for any country, even those in the Nordic region, but major strides through education and legislation are helping promote equality and freedom.

“Ideally one would wish at some point in time that LGBTI issues are no longer issues, because it is so natural that everybody enjoys the same opportunities and rights in the country,” Lyrvall said. 


 

 Morgan Caplan is an editorial intern of The Washington Diplomat.

 
 

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