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Sarah Colegrove United States and Scandinavia on Sexual Orientation 11/01/2012

United States and Scandinavia on Sexual Orientation The shape of government and the policies that the government has varies widely across the globe. There have been differences in sexual orientation since the very beginning of humankind. For centuries, being homosexual (or anything outside of the heterosexual norm) has been punishable by death, being ostracized from society, imprisonment, or physical harm. In the past fifty years or so, society has started to change how they view sexual orientation and governments have changed many policies. Some countries are much more restrictive, and even violent towards those who are homosexual, while other countries offer equality for everyone regardless of what their sexual orientation is. In the past twenty years or so, the United States appears to becoming much more open to differences in sexual orientation and the same can be said of the Scandinavia region (which includes Sweden, Denmark, and Norway). What then are the differences between how the United States and Scandinavia approach the issue of sexual orientation? Equality for all is a summation of the sexual orientation issue. Scandinavia, in general, has moved in a direction that pushes for equality on level and in every institution in society for those with varying sexual orientations. The United States is very split on the issue. Some argue for states 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. Until 2003, there were laws in the United States that forbid sodomy. If someone were to be caught in the act of sodomy, they would be treated as criminals. Same-sex marriage has been forbidden in many states while it is allowed in only eight states. One 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, their marriage would not be recognized. In Sweden, same-sex marriage was fully legalized in 2009. In Denmark, same-sex couples could be formally recognized as registered partnerships in 1989 and in 2012 the law was changed to allow same-sex marriage. In Norway, same-sex couples were recognized under a civil partnership law in 1993. In 2009, Norway passed a law allowing for gender neutral marriage. Homosexuality was illegal for a long time throughout the globe (and continues to be in several countries). In 1944 in Sweden, it was legal to engage in same-sex sexual activity. In 1933 in Denmark, homosexuality became legal. In Norway in 1972, same-sex sexual activity became legal. 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. Illinois was the first state to allow same-sex sexual activities between consenting partners. Sweden, Norway, and Denmark (which make up Scandinavia) are very similar (almost identical) in their policies and laws regarding sexual orientation. They seem to take a liberal approach to sexual orientation while the United States is much more mixed. The U.S. is more conservative on sexual orientation (even in states that have the most liberal policies on sexual orientation, they are behind Scandinavia is terms of being more open and equal). There is a debate on whether freedom or equality is more important to have in a nation. Scandinavia seems to have taken the approach that equality is more important. There are many laws to ensure equality for all, such as not discriminating against those with differing sexual

orientations and allowing for same-sex marriage. The United States, on the other hand, seems to value freedom more. Each state is given significant amount of power to shape the laws in their state to what they want. There are few limitations on what laws a state can and cannot have. It allows for much more freedom of law while much more equality for all is forsaken. A problem that the proponents of equality for all, including sexual orientation, face in the United States is the way the government is set up. The United States has a federal government and gives a lot of power to the states to decide. This is the case for sexual orientation. Individual states are given the choice on the laws that they want to make in regards to sexual orientation. This can allow for Vermont to be a very accepting state while Texas and fourteen other states were forced to legalize sodomy. 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. Sweden has a constitutional monarchy with a monarch, prime minister, and parliament. It is also unitary form of government. This allows for the laws in Sweden to not only be the same across the country but also for them to mainly be applied in the same manner. Norway has a slightly more complicated form of government. They have a monarch, a prime minister, a cabinet, Storting, and weak local government that is overseen by a governor that is appointed. A small percentage of the government policies are overseen by the local government while the central government is in charge of the rest. Denmark is also a constitutional monarchy that has a parliament and is a centralized. The centralization of the government helps to decrease the variety of forms that laws take around the country. The size of these countries also helps in the decisions that are made. A much larger country, like the United States, has the opportunity for the population to be much more diverse on a large scale and can allow there to be variety in law.

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