This week, Iceland’s Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardotti married her longtime partner Jonina Leosdottir, making her the first head of government in the world to marry a same-sex partner. The couple married last Sunday, which was both the international day for gay rights and the day that a new law legalizing same-sex marriage in Iceland went into effect. Sigurdardotti called the new law “cause for celebration for all Icelanders”, according to the Examiner.
The legislation is particularly notable because it goes one step beyond being gender neutral and explicitly states that “woman and woman” and “man and man” are included in the definition of marriage, according to On Top Magazine. The bill, first introduced in March of this year, was voted in by 49 of 63 members of the parliament on June 12. The remaining 12 members of the Icelandic parliament abstained, making the vote unanimous. The law replaces a 1996 law that allowed registered partnerships for same-sex couples. Sigurdardotti and her partner had this type of union prior to their wedding. Married partners will now have all the legal benefits and responsibilities that heterosexual married couples have.
In 2009, Sigurdardotti became the first woman and openly gay Prime Minister in the nation’s history. Sigurdardotti became interim prime minister when Former Icelandic Prime Minister Geir Haarde resigned in January as a result of Iceland’s economic collapse. She was then appointed by Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson and had previously served as the welfare minister under Haarde. She is currently the only openly gay national leader in the world.
The Scandinavian countries are often recognized internationally for their socially progressive policies and overall tolerance of differing lifestyles. In 2009, for instance, Iceland had the highest gender equality index of the 134 countries that were analyzed in a World Economic Forum study. Frederick Federley, a highly respected Swedish attorney, is openly gay, according to the Associated Press. Denmark started to register same-sex partnerships over 20 years ago and was the first to do so.
Currently, same-sex marriage is legal in six other European countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Norway, Sweden, and Portugal).