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Published by: Sarah Colegrove on Dec 28, 2012
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Sarah Colegrove

United States and Scandinavia on Sexual Orientation



and Denmark) have made policies and laws regarding sexual orientation. etc. the heterosexual orientation has been traditionally the only accepted sexual orientation. Norway. from a complete democracy to a partial democracy to communism to fascism to socialism. Over the past 100 years that has started to change across the globe. and even violent towards those who are homosexual. there were laws in the United States that forbid sodomy. they would be treated as criminals. If someone were to be caught in the act of sodomy. while other countries offer equality for everyone regardless of what their sexual orientation is. The United States and Scandinavia (which is a region that refers to the countries of Sweden. Although some think that the policies between the countries do not vary that much. there are significant differences between the United States and Scadinavia (Jeppesen De Boer & Kronborg. Government has been an important institution in society that has paved the way for this acceptance to be more permanent and more widely accepted by the people. Vermont was the first state to take this step when they voted to allow civil unions for same-sex couples in 2000 and later allowed same-sex marriage in 2009 2 . Some countries are much more restrictive. 2011) What then are the differences between how the United States and Scandinavia approach the issue of sexual orientation? Sexual Orientation and the Law Until 2003. The shape of government and the policies that the government has varies widely across the globe. However.UNITED STATES AND SCANDINAVIA ON SEXUAL ORIENTATION 2 United States and Scandinavia on Sexual Orientation Differences in sexual orientation have existed throughout human history. Same-sex marriage has been forbidden in many states while it is allowed in only six states (although some other states do allow for a civil or domestic partnership and others are waiting on voter referendums to be decided in the election this year).

they were more often than not dishonorably discharged from the military (Human Rights Campaign). Norway passed a law allowing for gender neutral marriage. If they were found to be homosexual. The vast majority of states. 2006). Texas). In Sweden. Noack. In 1933 in Denmark. In 1944 in Sweden. 2002). or same-sex marriage (Human Rights Campaign). same-sex marriage was fully legalized in 2009 (Andersson et al. people who were openly homosexual were forbidden from serving in the military. Illinois. Seierstad & Weedon-Fekjaer. in 1964.UNITED STATES AND SCANDINAVIA ON SEXUAL ORIENTATION 3 (“Civil Union”. In 2009. however. and age are. same-sex sexual activity became legal (Andersson. In Denmark. have laws in place that ban either civil union. Homosexuals have been allowed to serve openly 3 . 2011). This has allowed employers to fire employees for being gay or asking church leaders to leave the church because they are gay (Pitas). In Norway in 1972. In Norway. 2011). Until fall of 2011. same-sex couples could be formally recognized as registered partnerships in 1989 and in 2012 the law was changed to allow same-sex marriage (Jeppesen De Boer. Scandinavia has some of the most progressive laws on equality in sexual orientation. Sexual orientation in many states is not protected under law from discrimination like race. homosexuality became legal. 2006). Homosexuality (more specifically the sexual acts that are between those of the same-sex) was not fully legal in all parts of the United States until 2003 (fourteen states did not recognize homosexuality until the U. Homosexuality was illegal for a long time throughout the globe (and continues to be in several countries).S. same-sex couples were recognized under a civil partnership law in 1993. domestic partnerships. gender. Supreme Court case Lawrence v. was the first state to allow same-sex sexual activities between consenting partners. it was legal to engage in same-sex sexual activity (Jeppesen De Boer.

Jeppesen De Boer. 2012 p. Sweden. This can make it easier for government officials to accomplish their goals.S. Generalized trust is the idea that many people outside of one's close friends and family members can be trusted which can lead to “an essential part of a democratic political culture because 'it clearly indicates an inclusive and tolerant approach to the population at large. 2006. They have also have been protected from discrimination (which includes hate speech) for several years (Andersson et al. 2011). they are behind Scandinavia is terms of 4 . many people are distrustful of others and especially in the government. In Scandinavia there is must more of a generalized trust among the population than in the United States. on the other hand. 2012). the U. 1992). Liberalism or Conservatism? Liberalism in comparative political science has been described as a movement towards evolutionary change while conservatism in comparative political science has been described as a desire to not change or to even move back to policies and positions that they used to have (Draper & Ramsay.'” (Draper & Ramsay.UNITED STATES AND SCANDINAVIA ON SEXUAL ORIENTATION 4 in the military for decades in all three countries (Konigsberg. 89) In the United States. Norway. The people have had a voice in the government proceedings. In several areas. They seem to take a liberal approach to sexual orientation while the United States is much more mixed although leaning much more conservatively. is more conservative on sexual orientation policies (even in states that have the most liberal policies on sexual orientation. and Denmark are very similar in their policies and laws regarding sexual orientation. Trust in the Government The United States and Scandinavia have used different forms of democracy to shape their laws.

there are laws allowing same-sex couples to adopt. There are few limitations on what laws a state can and cannot have. The United States is very split on the issue. 2010. and laws to not be discriminated against in the workplace. Some argue for state’s rights – that each state should be allowed to choose their stance on sexual orientation – while others argue that equality for all in all societal institutions needs to be guaranteed regardless of sexual orientation and that equality is a human right (Lupia. Freedom or Equality? There is a debate on whether freedom or equality is more important to have in a nation. Each state is given significant amount of power to shape the laws in their state to what they want. From within the government. 5 . & Von Hagen-Jamar. Piston. Scandinavia. 2011). laws that protect from hate crimes. there does not appear to much of move at all towards equal rights and in some states they are moving backwards. The emphasis that a country puts on either freedom or equality can shape the laws that are made (Draper & Ramsay. Pitas). 2012). such as not discriminating against those with differing sexual orientations and allowing for same-sex marriage. Levine.UNITED STATES AND SCANDINAVIA ON SEXUAL ORIENTATION 5 being more open and equal). on the other hand. It allows for much more freedom of law while much more equality for all is forsaken (Human Rights Campaign). The United States. More restrictions are put on such things as limiting speech by increasing what can be considered a hate crime or hate speech (Jeppesen De Boer. in general. seems to value freedom more. Scandinavia seems to have taken the approach that equality is more important. Krupnikov. has moved in a direction that pushes for equality on level and in every institution in society for those with varying sexual orientations. There are many laws in the Scandinavia region to ensure equality for all. In Scandinavia.

Another problem that has arisen because of the differences between states is that if a same-sex couple were to be married in one state and moves to state where same-sex marriage is not allowed.S. Among states there are differences in same-sex marriage. Supreme Court cases). The United States has a federal government and gives a lot of power to the states to decide on laws. However. some of the states have not repealed their anti-sodomy laws and some enforcement officers still use this to harass individuals who appear to fall outside of the “heterosexual norm” (Pitas).S.UNITED STATES AND SCANDINAVIA ON SEXUAL ORIENTATION 6 Government A problem that the proponents of equality for all sexual orientations face in the United States is the way the government is set up. Lipia et al. This is the case for sexual orientation which so far the federal government has not gotten very involved in (with the most notable exceptions being U. Individual states are given the choice on the laws that they want to make in regards to sexual orientation such as protecting from hate speech (Draper & Ramsay. Several LGBT advocacy groups in the 6 . 2010). Supreme Court finally intervened). Nine states have decided to allow same-sex marriage or a civil union while over 25 states have a ban in place on either same-sex marriages or civil unions (Human Rights Campaign). This can allow for Vermont to be a very accepting state while Texas and fourteen other states did not recognize same-sex sexual activities as being non-criminal until 2003 (when the U. Several marriages have been terminated in the eyes of the law because the couple moved across state boundaries (Pitas. These differences between state laws can allow for someone to be given unequal treatment in the workplace because of their sexual orientation in one state while having full equality under the law in another state all within the same nation. 2012). their marriage would not be recognized.

However. All three countries have a form of a constitutional monarchy with a prime minister and a parliament. like the United States. They believe that the LGBT community needs protection from the government and equal rights given to them. This is in part because of their differing forms of government and that Scandinavia emphasizes equality more while the United States emphasizes freedom more. The size of these countries also helps in the decisions that are made. The centralization of the government helps to decrease the variety of forms that laws take around the country. They are valuing the humanness and the human rights of the individual and are leveling the playing field (“Norway concerned about prison”.UNITED STATES AND SCANDINAVIA ON SEXUAL ORIENTATION 7 United States are pushing for the federal government to become more involved in LGBT rights like they did in the Civil Rights Movement or in the Women's Rights Movement. in the United States horrific hate crimes (such as outright killing someone who is homosexual or by bulling someone who is homosexual until they feel forced to commit suicide so they can escape) still occurs in several states on a rather consistent basis and the prosecution 7 . 2010). A much larger country. Norway. Local government within these nations is mainly limited to only a few areas of which legislating laws that deal with sexual orientation are not a concern. otherwise their human rights are being violated (Human Rights Campaign). Scandinavia appears to have taken an approach that will better humankind in the long run. has the opportunity for the population to be much more diverse on a large scale which can make it harder to make laws on a federal level that fit everywhere (Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. Sweden. and Denmark have governments that are much smaller and the power is more consolidated. 2012). Scandinavia has many more laws protecting and providing equality for those with differing sexual orientations than the United States has.

It is as if the U. government does not recognize freedom to express sexual orientation preferences without threat of persecution as human right (Lupia et al. Pitas). the United States is pretty far between several countries in protecting citizens with different sexual orientations. Scandinavia has paved the way for equal rights and hopefully the United States (and the world as a whole) will be able to follow the path. are not granted the same rights as a married couple when it comes to inheritance. hospital visitation. in states that do not allow or recognize either same-sex marriage or civil unions. most progressive nation in the world and that the United States protects individual liberties like no other nation does (or could even dream of doing). In fact. This “hands off approach” approach by the federal government has caused and will continue to cause significant harm to many of citizens in the United States as they are persecuted because they have not been granted the same rights as everyone else in the United States. Families have been torn apart from this lack of intervention as same-sex couples. Scandinavia appears to have a much better approach to the equality of sexual orientation than the United States.S. and many other similar areas (Human Rights Campaign. custody rights. 2010). It appears as if the federal government in the United States is taking a much more hands off approach to this issue of public policy and letting the states figure it out for themselves.UNITED STATES AND SCANDINAVIA ON SEXUAL ORIENTATION 8 these cases are not equal (Human Rights Campaign). The United States is not “on the top” when it comes to laws dealing with sexual orientation. Conclusion That idea that (United States of) America is exceptional in some way has caused many to believe (falsely) that the United States is the best. It is my hope that one day all countries will be able to reach a point where governments can 8 .

UNITED STATES AND SCANDINAVIA ON SEXUAL ORIENTATION 9 provide equal protection for all regardless of sexual orientation and that everyone will be free to truly be themselves and to love without risking themselves. 9 .

Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.state. & Kronborg.UNITED STATES AND SCANDINAVIA ON SEXUAL ORIENTATION 10 Works Cited Andersson." but not your homosexual partners: International solutions to America's same-sex immigration dilemma. Background note: Sweden. Retrieved 10/31. J. U. (2012). M. from www. Christina G. from www... your huddled masses. Inc.. A. A. 2012). Human rights campaign. Retrieved 10/30. National report: Denmark. from www. Cardozo Journal of International & Comparative Law. (2011). 2010. American University Journal of Gender.state. Retrieved 10/31. 2012). (2002). T. Glenview. 2012. Jeppesen De Boer. 2012.. "Give me your tired. 2010. IL: Pearson Education. (March 7. your poor.).state.gov Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. & Weedon-Fekjaer. H. The demographics of same-sex marriages in Norway and Sweden. (2010). Draper.org Hrutkay. (April 5. Noack. G. 2012). Retrieved 10/31. 10 . from www. & Ramsay.S.gov Civil union. Social Policy & the Law. relations with Denmark. A. (2006).. A. Seierstad. Funk & wagnalss new world encyclopedia World Almanac Education Group. The good society: An introduction to comparative politics (2nd ed ed. Demography. (June 15.hrc. Background note: Norway.gov Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.

History of the gay rights movement in the US. Retrieved 10/31. 2012. Why state constitutions differ in their treatment of same-sex marriage.UNITED STATES AND SCANDINAVIA ON SEXUAL ORIENTATION 11 Konigsberg. & Von Hagen-Jamar. Y. Norway concerned about prison sentence for homosexuality.com/people/gaypeople 11 . Piston.lifeintheusa. from www. (2010). Levine. A. J. E. Washington Monthly. (2010). A. Journal of Politics. Krupnikov. M2PressWIRE Pitas...24(11) Lupia. A... S. Gays in arms. S. (1992).

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