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Odd Couples

Odd Couples: A History of Gay Marriage in Scandinavia

Jens Rydström
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 246
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  • Book Info
    Odd Couples
    Book Description:

    The concept of marriage as a union of a man and a woman was fundamentally challenged by the introduction of registered partnership in Denmark in 1989.Odd Couplesis the first comprehensive history of registered partnership and gay marriage in Scandinavia. It traces the origins of laws which initially were extremely controversial-inside and outside the gay community-but have now gained broad popular and political support, as well as the positive effects and risks involved in state recognition of lesbian and gay couples. Through a comparison of how these laws have been received and practiced in all of the Scandinavian countries, including Greenland and the Faroe Islands, the author presents a nuanced study of a fascinating political process that began in the 1960s and continues to change the way we understand family, sexuality and nation.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1485-4
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Preface
    (pp. 7-10)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 11-38)

    When registered partnership was introduced in Sweden, the Justice Department distributed an information folder about the new law. Its front page showed two male figures, dressed in funny clothes and funny little hats and holding a red heart. They had thick red lips and large pants and coats. They were unmistakably clowns. Inside the folder was a list of the new law’s limitations. Registered partners were not allowed to adopt children, neither individually nor as a couple. They were denied access to insemination or any other kind of assisted fertilisation, and they could not be appointed as legal trustees or...

  5. Chapter One: The road to registered partnership
    (pp. 39-68)

    The laws on registered partnership were revolutionary in that it was the first time the state recognised individual same-sex couples as legitimate. That is not to say that they lacked legitimacy in a number of other respects before the laws were adopted. Long-term relationships between persons of the same sex were seen and acknowledged as part of social life long before that, and even during periods of pronounced anti-homosexual campaigns, such couples could live and thrive among friends. In 1963, two lesbians who had a central position in Stockholm’s lesbian and gay subculture arranged a wedding ceremony. Vivi Astroy, better...

  6. Chapter Two: Is marriage what we want?
    (pp. 69-90)

    The demands for legal recognition of same-sex couples are not new. Ceremonies of friendship and other forms of bonding necessarily have copied heterosexual forms for contracting marriage. In 1884, the deeply religious Swedish philosopher Pontus Wikner wrote in his secret diary about his love for other men. He deeply regretted the wrongs he had done to his wife, and he suggested a remedy for the suffering he and those who were like him had to endure and had inflicted on others:

    Could it not be possible, that an exceptional status be granted to such people who are my equals, so...

  7. Chapter Three: Gay marriage in mainstream politics
    (pp. 91-114)

    During the twentieth century, the Scandinavian countries saw the establishment of a fairly stable five-party system following two basic divisions: that between work and capital and that between urban and rural interests. This led to the establishment of large workers’ parties, large agrarian parties, and large conservative parties that defended the interests of the capital owners. Next to these three class-based party formations, smaller ideology-based parties evolved. The communist or left socialist parties on the one hand and the liberal parties on the other generally attracted between 5 and 10 percent each of the voters. This stable five-party structure was...

  8. Chapter Four: Implementation
    (pp. 115-126)

    The fear of negative consequences of the registered partnership law was not exactly widespread in Scandinavia, but it could be dramatically formulated. When the Danish partnership law became effective on 1 October 1989, five men and one woman voiced their concern in a letter to the editor of a local newspaper:

    October 1st – a fatal day – a death sentence! We Danes and not least we Christians have signed our own death warrant! … So far out in the mud have we come, we Danes, that other countries must regard us as the country most polluted by sin in...

  9. Chapter Five: Gender and marriage statistics
    (pp. 127-144)

    When the law on registered partnership was first introduced in Denmark in 1989, international press coverage was extensive, and the pictures of the aging gay couple Axel and Eigil Axgil went all over the world. Axel Axgil was the founder of The Society of 1948 and he and his partner had worked for many decades for lesbian and gay rights in Denmark, so it seemed natural that they would be given the honour to be first. They had waited long, but now they were the first registered gay couple in the world and were celebrated by a huge crowd in...

  10. Chapter Six: The next step
    (pp. 145-166)

    The idea that the law on registered partnership was just the first step was used by both sides in the debate. Conservatives used it to call attention to a threatening possibility if the law was passed, while gay activists used it as a pledge to fight its limitations. “The next step is the Church,” a headline announced in the Danish dailyPolitikenas the partnership law was voted through in Norway in 1993. The chair of LBL, Else Slange, said in an interview that the next step in Denmark must be to convince the Danish People’s Church to let lesbians...

  11. Summary and conclusions
    (pp. 167-178)

    There are three main focuses of this book: the internal discussions in the gay and lesbian movement, the reception of the ideas in mainstream politics, and the development of state recognition of same-sex couples from acceptance of childless couples to the recognition of rainbow families. Internal discussions had tended to oppose lesbian feminists and gay activists until the Danish law was adopted in 1989. After that, the other Scandinavian gay and lesbian movements stood seemingly united in their demands for registered partnership. The willingness of the political parties to heed the demands of the gay and lesbian movement depended largely...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 179-212)
  13. Appendix: Political parties and gay and lesbian rights groups in Scandinavia
    (pp. 213-220)
  14. References
    (pp. 221-238)
  15. Index
    (pp. 239-246)