Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Johanna Sigurdardottir: modern world’s first openly gay prime minister appointed in Iceland
1 February 2009
BBC reports that “Iceland has announced a new government that will be headed by the modern world's first openly gay leader.”
“The 66-year-old's appointment as interim leader - until elections in May - is seen by many as a milestone for the gay and lesbian movement, correspondents say.”
Here is the most important point I’d like to pay your attention to.
According to Ingo Sigfusson of Iceland's public broadcaster, RUV, Ms Sigurdardottir's emergence as the world's first openly gay leader has barely rated a mention among his countrymen and women.
"It's by no means a big deal. It's been reported, but it's not something the public is focusing on," he told the BBC.
BBC also reports that “she has even been nicknamed "Saint Johanna" in praise of her work for the rights of the handicapped, elderly and disadvantaged.”
NYT provides comprehensive background info:
"She began her political career as a union organizer with the national airline, now known as Icelandair, where she had worked more than 30 years ago as a flight attendant. She has two sons with her former husband, a banker, and six grandchildren. Ms. Sigurdardottir established a civil partnership in 2002 with Jonina Leosdottir, 54, an author, playwright and journalist. She, too, is a divorced mother.
Although Ms. Sigurdardottir’s rise has drawn widespread attention on Web sites for gay men and lesbians outside Iceland, her relationship is considered unremarkable at home. In 1940, while still a dependency of Denmark, Iceland decriminalized gay sex. It approved civil partnerships for gay and lesbian couples in 1996, one of the first countries to do so.
“Iceland is a small society, and the public knows what Sigurdardottir stands for as a politician, and that’s the only thing that is important,” said Frosti Jonsson, a spokesman for Iceland’s National Association of Queers. “Nowadays, not only does Iceland have one of the most progressive legal environments for gay people, there have also been changes in public attitudes towards gay people. It simply isn’t an issue anymore.”
The Advocate reminds of only one other instance of openly gay politician serving a prime-minister position (not appointed, but “acting prime minister”): Norway finance minister Per-Kristian Foss, who is gay, was that country’s acting prime minister for a brief period in 2002 while both the prime minister and foreign minister were traveling abroad.
*photo - via The Advocate