• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Sweden and US fight homophobia together

The Local · 15 May 2014, 16:13

Published: 15 May 2014 16:13 GMT+02:00

Many of you may know the story of Matthew Shepard a 21-year-old American university student who was beaten, tortured and left to die for one reason -- he was gay. Tied to a fence in a rural area, he was found eighteen hours after the attack, mistaken as a scarecrow. Unable to recover from massive head trauma, Matthew died six days later. This senseless crime, motivated by hate and intolerance, was a tragedy that reminds us of the horror of hate crimes.

Matthew’s tragic fate is shared by too many people around the world simply because of whom they love. One of the most poignant and personally moving experiences I have had as ambassador to Sweden occurred this past December, when Matthew’s parents, Dennis and Judy, came to Sweden and shared an inspiring vision of hope through the non-profit foundation they established in Matthew’s name. Their courageous 11-year fight to pass anti-hate crime legislation in the US was recognized in 2009 when President Obama signed the “Matthew Shepard Act.”

Saturday marks International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT). It marks the occasion in 1990 when the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its International Classification of Diseases. As we stand in solidarity with LGBT family members, co-workers and friends, it’s imperative that we stand up to the incredible ideological regression occurring in parts of the world where governments are using state sponsored media to breed hate and invoke fear.

No country is immune to hate and the evil ideology that provokes violent attacks. Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgendered (LGBT) individuals is a shared struggle that still plagues much of the world.

I recently met with the International Rainbow Leaders, participants in a program organized by RFSL that provides training and support for LGBT advocates who put their lives at risk to promote equality in some of the world’s most restrictive countries. Places where government arbitrariness and rhetoric not only deny fundamentals human rights, but silences, sometimes forcibly, any opposition. These courageous men and women are fighting intolerance so no one has to face a fate like Matthew Shepard.

Last September, President Obama and Prime Minister Reinfeldt stood side by side and affirmed their joint commitment to protect the human rights of LGBT persons globally through support of the Global Equality Fund. As but one example of that cooperation, the US and Sweden are funding the Rainbow Leaders program. The Fund assists civil society organizations in over 25 countries worldwide. The United States and Sweden are each preparing a $6 million contribution of new resources to support its efforts over the next three years.

Change is not easy and doesn’t happen overnight. But policy reforms and the supremacy of law over power eventually occur in societies that respect an open exchange of ideas, promote rule of law, and protect individuals who are willing to stand up for equality. America and Sweden were built on these shared values. During his visit, President Obama said, “We share a belief in the dignity and equality of every human being; that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters must be treated equally under the law; that our societies are strengthened by diversity.” I’m proud that the US is moving in the right direction.

Last year, the US federal government recognized same-sex unions by opening up thousands of government programs and offering benefits to same-sex couples—a change that directly benefited several American diplomats working here in Stockholm. To be clear: At US Embassy Stockholm, we are anti-anti-gay. We’ve come a long way, but there is still more that must be done.

In closing, we can’t forget the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. that a “threat to justice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Attacks against the LGBT community, whether they happen in a small town in the US, or as they’re happening now on a regular basis in Russia, are affront to the fundamental values that define our societies in United States and Europe.

The fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago marked the end of the Cold War. It was a triumph for universal human rights and it demonstrated the power of people coming together and voicing opposition to moral and social injustice. Recent events in Europe, including the Russian government’s abhorrent treatment of the country’s LGBT community, as well as its illegal annexation in Crimea and the restrictions it is placing on freedom of expression, show we must remain vigilant. We cannot stand silent as fundamental freedoms are whittled away and people are singled out simply because of who they love. It is up to each of us to speak up, act, and be “anti anti-gay.”  

Mark Brzezinski, US ambassador to Sweden

 

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Why this Swedish restaurant is launching a dog menu
Forget ice cream, hungry Swedish dogs can now drink beefy beer. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

A Gothenburg eatery has unveiled a menu specially designed for dogs in an effort to attract new customers.

How the Swedish Church used taxes to fund lavish trips
File photo of a Swedish priest. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

A trip to Malta for 99 people was among those funded by the church coffers.

Stockholm couple crash car during rowdy romp
Never forget to put the handbrake on. Photo: YB Södermalm

A pair of hapless Stockholm lovers decide to get intimate in their car on Monday, but it was all downhill from there.

Why Sweden is now the EU's most competitive economy
Sweden has been ranked as the EU's most competitive economy. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

It's beating European giants such as Germany and the United Kingdom by miles, according to a key global ranking.

Is this the best cafe in Sweden to grab a fika?
Annas Hembageri in Mariefred. Photo: Sofia Marcetic/TT

Fill up the coffee cup and help yourself to a 'kanelbulle'. This is Sweden's best café according to food experts.

Poll shows cost of spring crisis for Swedish government
Swedish PM Stefan Löfven and Deputy PM Isabella Lövin at a cabinet reshuffle in May. Photo: Erik Nylander/TT

The survey suggests the current Swedish government would not receive the largest share of votes if an election were held in May.

Presented by Malmö Town
How Malmö is becoming the next hub for foodies
A dish at Malmö restaurant Bord13. Photo: Gustav Arnetz

When you think Malmö, do you think cheap falafel? Think again.

Fewer than 500 of 163,000 asylum seekers found jobs
Migration offices in Sweden. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT

Of almost 163,000 people who applied for asylum in Sweden last year, fewer than 500 landed a job, according to a new report.

Opinion
The eight ingredients that created the Swedish model
Where did the Swedish model begin? Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

What is the Swedish model and who invented it? Thinktank chairman Anders Källström presents the eight reasons behind Sweden's success.

Sweden lack fire without Zlatan in Slovenian stalemate
Sweden coach Erik Hamrén. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

But who are the other players who got a chance to shine ahead of the Euro 2016?

Sponsored Article
Why Stockholm attracts so many successful researchers
Gallery
Property of the week: Mariestad
Sponsored Article
Stockholm makes it easier for refugees to meet startups
National
How this Swede was turned down for a job because of her head scarf
National
Swedish police trial use of taser guns
Blog updates

27 May

Editor’s blog, May 27th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, Would you spend a day doing manual labour in high heels? That’s what Swedish…" READ »

 

17 May

What about “att”? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! It often seems like the small words are the ones that cause the most confusion.…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
'Only soft power can defeat radicalism'
National
'Sweden would not be able to defend Gotland'
Sponsored Article
Eat, learn, live: unforgettable holidays in France
Gallery
People-watching: May 27th-29th
National
First migrants make it from Denmark to Sweden on foot
Gallery
The best, cutest and funniest snaps from Prince Oscar's christening
Sponsored Article
'Sweden gives artists the space to follow their dreams'
Travel
Is this town the best place in Sweden?
Sponsored Article
'A sustainable Sweden must embrace diversity'
Gallery
People-watching: May 25th
Society
WATCH: Why Swedish handyman wore pink high heels for feminism
Sponsored Article
How to find student housing in Malmö: 5 tips
Sport
LIST: Top-ten ridiculous things Zlatan has compared himself to
Sponsored Article
Can you afford to live in Stockholm? (Hint: yes)
Business & Money
Why Swedes don't want the euro
Fastighetsbyrån
Gallery
Property of the week: Vika, Falun
Sponsored Article
Food, fun, and reliable sun: Summer in Dubrovnik
National
Is this the most Swedish tattoo ever?
Sponsored Article
How Stockholm startups help new employees feel at home
Gallery
People-watching: May 20th-22nd
Sponsored Article
VIDEO: Why Malmö is the world's 6th best city for biking
National
How to really annoy a Swede abroad
Sponsored Article
'Sweden gives artists the space to follow their dreams'
National
How this war veteran is warming hearts in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Gallery
People-watching: May 18th
Sponsored Article
Can you afford to live in Stockholm? (Hint: yes)
National
How this Swede's viral ad totally nailed Stockholm's housing crisis
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Gallery
Property of the week: Vasastaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
Stockholm makes it easier for refugees to meet startups
Lifestyle
The best Swedish cities for dating
Gallery
People-watching: May 13th-15th
Culture
BLOG: Eurovision as it happened
3,326
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se