• Sweden edition
 
Opinion
Sweden and US fight homophobia together
Reinfeldt and Obama during the US state visit to Sweden last year. File: TT

Sweden and US fight homophobia together

Published: 15 May 2014 16:13 GMT+02:00
Updated: 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
National
Teens in intensive care after school 'initiation'
Photo: Peder Skrivares school

Teens in intensive care after school 'initiation'

School inspectors are investigating after an initiation ceremony at a high school in Varberg in south west Sweden left four girls in hospital. READ  

National
Pirate Bay Swede 'mistreated' in jail
Peter Sunde. Photo: TT

Pirate Bay Swede 'mistreated' in jail

The brother of Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde has questioned the conditions of his brother's Swedish jail, slamming both the institution and the guards. READ  

Elections 2014
Fresh election fears in divided Sweden
Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson may not support a Social Democrat budget. Photo: TT

Fresh election fears in divided Sweden

UPDATED: The leaders of Sweden's main political parties have been called to parliament as speculation grows that the Sweden Democrats could hold the key to new elections. READ  

Presented by Stockholm Business Region
Introducing... the Stockholm collection
Photo: Imagebank Sweden

Introducing... the Stockholm collection

Moving to Stockholm, or just dreaming about it? Either way, this is your ultimate guide: for housing, finances, insurance, business, and so much more. READ  

In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week
Photo: Fastighetsbyrån

In Pictures: The Local's Property of the Week

Time for some luxury this week - we're heading to a sprawling Eskilstuna property with a location and view to die for. READ  

National
Row over viral 'Nazi receipt' in Swedish shop
A cashier in a Coop supermarket: Photo: TT

Row over viral 'Nazi receipt' in Swedish shop

A photo of a till receipt with the Nazi slogan "Sieg Heil" printed on it has gone viral in Sweden, with supermarket chain Coop launching an internal investigation. READ  

Society
Sweden tops 'financial well-being' rankings
Sweden's family-friendly policies contribute to well-being. Photo: TT

Sweden tops 'financial well-being' rankings

Swedes have fewer money concerns than people from any other European country, according to the latest major report on global well-being. READ  

National
King Carl XVI Gustaf 'unhurt' after crash
The King of Sweden. Photo: TT

King Carl XVI Gustaf 'unhurt' after crash

UPDATED: Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf has been involved in a car accident but is unhurt, the Royal family's press office has confirmed to The Local. READ  

Elections 2014
Migration minister calls Feminists 'a dark force'

Migration minister calls Feminists 'a dark force'

Sweden's Migration Minister has said in a Facebook post that both the Sweden Democrats and the Feminist Initiative parties were "dark, gloomy, and destructive forces". READ  

The Local List
Ten Swedish designs that made life better
Playsam

Ten Swedish designs that made life better

Sweden has produced an indecent number of design classics. We take a look at some of the best - from toys to furniture, fabric designs to telephones, packaging to super-safe headwear. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
Property of the week - Eskilstuna
Sponsored Article
How to start a business in Stockholm
Society
How I became a surf blogger when I moved to Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: September 13th
Society
Why is Stockholm's Södermalm so cool?
Blog updates

17 September

Deep election analysis (Blogweiser) »

"You think you’re bad? Well I’m American. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFbomLID0vU Deep deep analysis on Swedish election results. Vlog post: https://t.co/tjQgfa5Yie #svpol #val2014 #politics pic.twitter.com/oEK5ADFT8L — Joel Sherwood (@joeldsherwood) September 17, 2014 " READ »

 

15 September

Liten, litet, små & lilla (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej igen! Have you ever been confused about when to use “liten”, “litet”, “små” and “lilla”? Today I’m going to sort out how use the adjective “liten” (small) and the different forms of it. Liten or litet? “Liten” is the form we will use when referring to a noun with the gender “en”. For example: Min pappa har en..." READ »

 
 
 
Gallery
People-watching: September 11th
Gallery
People-watching: September 13th
Politics
Five possible election outcomes
Politics
Sweden elections: How do they work?
Politics
Sweden elections: Who's who?
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week - Hornstull, Stockholm
Analysis
Five differences between the UK and Sweden
Welshman Jonny Luck is now a chef in Sweden
Society
How I opened my own restaurant in Sweden's Malmö
Sponsored Article
Stockholm tech fest: relive the magic
Gallery
People-watching September 8th
Photo: TT
Politics
Feminists fight for first seats
Politics
Immigration cut push from Sweden Democrats
Sheryl Sandberg says women have "low expectations"
Tech
Facebook exec talks women's limits in Swedish business
Politics
Left Party calls for justice and equality
Politics
Green Party wants 'better world' for kids
Lifestyle
The five best Swedish songs of the month
Sponsored Article
Introducing… Insurance in Stockholm
National
Huge clear up underway after Skåne floods
Politics
Sweden's Alliance reveals full manifesto
Tech
Sweden's highest peak to lose title next year
Sponsored Article
Graduates: Insure your income in Sweden with AEA
Sponsored Article
Introducing...Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing...Housing in Stockholm
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

854
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
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:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN