• 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
Stockholm bomb investigation to cease
The suicide bombing took place in 2010. Photo: TT

Stockholm bomb investigation to cease

Sweden’s Security Service (SAPO), is expected to announce that it will stop its core investigation into a suicide bombing in Stockholm four years ago. READ  

National
Chainsaw man destroys house in family feud
The man used a chainsaw to destroy most of the Lidköping home. Photo: Shutterstock

Chainsaw man destroys house in family feud

A man in central Sweden has gone on a rampage with a chainsaw after a family housing dispute took an unexpected turn. READ  

National
Man frames beggar with stolen tablet computer
The beggar was detained for almost 24 hours after the accusation. Photo: TT

Man frames beggar with stolen tablet computer

A man in southern Sweden has landed in hot water after he stole a tablet computer, gave it to a beggar, then reported her to the police. READ  

Stockholm 'sub hunt'
Military seeks 'patience' in sub search
The Swedish Armed Forces have sent out 200 troops. Photo: TT

Military seeks 'patience' in sub search

Sweden's military says it has no plans to downsize the search for a possible foreign submarine and is prepared to force any suspect weapon to the surface of the sea, "with weapons if necessary". READ  

Stockholm 'sub hunt'
Sub hunt: 'There is something out there'
Former navy officer Bosse Linden in Vaxholm. Photo: Maddy Savage

Sub hunt: 'There is something out there'

Stockholm's archipelago is the focus of the biggest military operation in Sweden since the Cold War. The Local is in the region's capital, Vaxholm, to see what residents make of the drama. READ  

Presented by CurrencyFair
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
CurrencyFair co-founder Brett Meyers

CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers

Tired of losing money when you send cash back home? Join other expats in Sweden who avoid bank fees and hidden charges by sending money internationally with CurrencyFair, an online marketplace where secure transactions are faster and cheaper. READ  

European Union
Extremist saves Sweden Democrats' EU group
Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson. Photo: TT

Extremist saves Sweden Democrats' EU group

The EU group that bound several Eurosceptic parties including the Sweden Democrats has been saved by an MEP from a far-right Polish group, just a week after it appeared to have crumbled, according to a UK press report. READ  

Stockholm 'submarine' hunt
Timeline: Mystery 'submarine' in Stockholm
Sweden's Armed Forces are out in force after reports of a foreign vessel in the Stockholm archipelago. Photo: TT

Timeline: Mystery 'submarine' in Stockholm

The world has had its periscope on Sweden since the Swedish military launched an extensive hunt for what is rumoured to be a damaged Russian submarine in the Stockholm archipelago. Here is the timeline of events so far. READ  

Business & Money
Profit leap for Swedbank
A branch of Swedbank in Malmö. Photo. TT

Profit leap for Swedbank

Swedbank has seen its profits rise higher than expected. READ  

New coalition
Sick pay U-turn from Sweden's new coalition
Stefan Löfven has changed his strategy on sick pay. Photo: TT

Sick pay U-turn from Sweden's new coalition

Small businesses won't face rising sick pay costs, following a policy reversal from Sweden's new coalition government. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
Property of the week: Malmö
Gallery
PHOTOS: 'Foreign activity' in Swedish waters
National
Sweden deploys troops over underwater threat
Gallery
People-watching: October 19th
TT
Society
QUIZ: How good is your Swedish?
Blog updates

21 October

Denna & den här (The Swedish Teacher) »

"?Denna? or ?den hr?? Swedish language students often ask question about different pronouns. One pronoun that especially..." READ »

 

19 October

Getting it (Blogweiser) »

"Follow Joel Sherwood on FB Few watch baseball in Sweden. This is excellent when your team loses..." READ »

 
 
 
Business & Money
Get your own office in Gothenburg or Stockholm - free for a day
National
A Touch of Scandinavia: Reindeer in the kitchen
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden: October 17th - 24th
Society
The nudity... and nine other things expat men notice in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 15th
Gallery
Your views: Should outdoor smoking be banned in Sweden?
Business & Money
Sweden has 'large hole' in finances
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Finding a job in Stockholm
Society
Monster salmon caught in northern Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week: Lorensberg
National
Scandinavia's child bride
National
Ebola crisis: How is Sweden preparing?
Lifestyle
Sweden's The Bridge to become 'more Danish'
Business & Money
How Sweden is becoming a cashless society
Gallery
Stockholm Burlesque Festival 2014
National
How a little red horse became a symbol for Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 12th
Business & Money
The hottest start-ups from southern Sweden
National
What's on in Sweden: October 10th - 17th
National
Stockholm is 'best' region for well-being
Gallery
People-watching: October 8th
National
Five facts to know about Patrick Modiano
Society
My Swedish Career: A French fashionista in Sweden
Society
Swede's anti-bully Facebook tale goes viral
Society
Have you seen Sweden's viral subway cancer campaign?
National
Isis: Swedes linked to Turkish prisoner swap
National
Should Swedes be banned from buying sex abroad?
Gallery
Fredrik Reinfeldt's leaving presents
National
Five Swedish TV shows you shouldn't miss
Gallery
A tool belt, a casserole, and a book. Fredrik Reinfeldt's parliament gifts
TT
Lifestyle
Top five winter festivals in Sweden
TT
National
Sami reindeer herders win mine reprieve
Gallery
Property of the Week: Gamla Enskede
Sponsored Article
How to catch the first lobster of the year
Politics
Ten new minister faces you should know
Tech
First womb transplant baby in world born in Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: October 5th
National
What's on in Sweden
National
Sweden rethinks Afghan translators' protection
Society
Interview with Geena Davis: 'I want to be in a Swedish movie'
Team SCA
Sponsored Article
All-female SCA team takes off on Volvo Ocean Race
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

992
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