• Sweden's news in English
 
almadalen_header

Sweden and US fight homophobia together

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
European heatwave
Sizzling Swedes warned of heatwave sickness
Swedes enjoying warm weather in Stockholm on July 2nd 2015. Photo: TT

Sizzling Swedes warned of heatwave sickness

UPDATED: Thursday turned out to be the hottest day of the year so far in Sweden, but extreme heat in the south east has got people worried about forest fires and weather-related sickness. READ  

Almedalen 2015
BLOG: Sweden's political power forum - Day Five
Sweden's Green Party leader Gustav Fridolin at Almedalen. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT

BLOG: Sweden's political power forum - Day Five

Education as well as environmental issues topped the agenda when Sweden's Green Party co-leader Gustav Fridolin took to the stage on day five of Almedalen - Sweden's biggest week in politics. READ  

Almedalen 2015 with the Swedish Institute
Sweden to link Baltic region in new ways
One goal of the initiative is protecting the Baltic. File photo: Tuukka Ervasti/imagebank.sweden.se

Sweden to link Baltic region in new ways

Sweden has new responsibilities in the Baltic Sea region, playing an even more important role in joint efforts to boast prosperity, protect the sea, and keep the region connected. READ  

Snake on the slither in southern Sweden
This is (probably) not the snake mentioned in the story. Photo: AP Photo/J Pat Carter

Snake on the slither in southern Sweden

A three-metre long python spotted in a popular park in Malmö remained on the loose on Thursday afternoon. READ  

Shock as Sweden slashes interest rate
Swedish kronor. Photo: TT/Jonas Ekströmer

Shock as Sweden slashes interest rate

UPDATED: Sweden’s central bank (the Riksbank) has lowered the country’s historic low interest rate even further. The key rate, the repo, now stands at minus 0.35 percent. READ  

Almedalen 2015
'If the Russians come our whole lives will change'
What's on the horizon for Gotland? Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

'If the Russians come our whole lives will change'

Recent claims that Russia rehearsed a military takeover of Gotland stirred up fear among Swedes – but how do people living here feel? The Local asked islanders what life is like in the bullseye of Sweden. READ  

Almedalen 2015 with ConnectSweden
Sweden's 'incredible' chance to connect
Photo: The Local

Sweden's 'incredible' chance to connect

Sweden's connections to the world are in the spotlight this week, as the hottest names at Almedalen gather to discuss the impact of connectivity on jobs, tourism, and relations with other countries. The Local is on the scene. READ  

Swedish firm embroiled in US antitrust lawsuit
Swedish appliances firm Electrolux has been sued. Photo: Fredrik Persson/SCANPIX

Swedish firm embroiled in US antitrust lawsuit

Swedish giant Electrolux's attempt to snap up General Electric's appliance business has been met with a lawsuit by US antitrust officials, saying the $3.3 billion deal would harm consumers. READ  

What's on in Sweden
Six hip spots to sun seek in Sweden's capital
Solstugan sun terrace in Kristineberg. Photo: Solstugan

Six hip spots to sun seek in Sweden's capital

Here's our pick of places to enjoy the warm weather that's finally made its way to the Swedish capital, along with our weekly guide to what's on in the rest of the country. READ  

Almedalen 2015
BLOG: Sweden's political power forum - Day Four
Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson, speaking on Wednesday. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

BLOG: Sweden's political power forum - Day Four

The nationalist Sweden Democrat party's leader Jimmie Åkesson has told his nation's biggest political conference that he wants to create a better county for children and crack down on extremism. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Politics
Almedalen: The Local's guide to Sweden's power players week
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Swedes soak up sun on hottest day of year
Sport
Sweden celebrates greatest sporting victory in decades
Gallery
People-watching: July 1st
Sponsored Article
VIP Mingle at Almedalen's hottest event
Blog updates

26 June

Editor’s blog, June 26th (The Local Sweden) »

"Greetings from Stockholm, We’re about to transport our newsroom to the idyllic Swedish island of Gotland for..." READ »

 

23 June

Defending Our Interests … And Our Allies (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"This is an important week for European security, with decisions affecting Europe’s unstable Southern and Eastern..." READ »

 
 
 
National
Swede battles slug invasion
Sponsored Article
What can we learn from Swedish women's sex habits?
National
VIDEO: Is this herring tasting clip an 'insult to Sweden'?
Gallery
Property of the week: Visby, Gotland
National
Sweden set for sunniest week of year
Gallery
People-watching: June 26th-28th
Features
The Local's essential guide to who's who in Swedish politics
National
More Swedish military exercises as Russia aggression fears grow
National
What's on in Sweden this week
Travel
Why Swedish camp sites are set for a bumper summer
National
Swedish summer's really on its way (at least according to forecasters)
Gallery
People-watching: June 24th
National
Why are southern Swedes angry about becoming 'Danish' again?
Society
Lifestyle: When to catch your favourite features on The Local
National
Is Sweden one of the world's most peaceful nations?
Sponsored Article
Harstena: Travelling to Sweden's secret islands
National
One in ten Swedish cats homeless
Sponsored Article
'I constantly evolve my Swedishness'
Gallery
Property of the week: Värmdö, Stockholm
Society
Would you eat this Swedish pizza?
National
Swedish royals' dream honeymoon
National
Swedish hospital opens first centre for male rape victims
Gallery
People-watching: June 20th-21st
Photo: TT
Lifestyle
Midsummer: The Local's guide to Sweden's craziest festival
Sponsored Article
Murder, myth and magic: Travelling to the birthplace of Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: June 17th
Sponsored Article
Gallery: Life in Sweden's secret archipelago
Society
Seven alternative names for Sweden's Prince Nicolas Paul Gustaf
National
FBI returns stolen Swedish books
National
Want to smell like Zlatan?
National
Royal joy over birth of new prince
Gallery
Property of the week: Brantevik, Simrishamn
National
How racy graffiti inspired a teacher's high school sex class
Gallery
People-watching: June 12th-14th
National
As it happened: Prince Carl Philip marries Sofia Hellqvist
Technology
Is Stockholm the world's creative capital?
National
Timeline: Julian Assange case
Sponsored Article
KTH President: ‘Sweden’s success is because of its size’
Gallery
IN PICTURES: New royal couple Prince Carl Philip and Sofia Hellqvist
Features
Ten Swedish festivals to discover
Features
Ten reasons Stockholm is definitely way cooler than Copenhagen
National
VIDEO: Watch Swedish man rescue baby elk from cold creek
National
VIDEO: Have you seen this jet ski blunder at a Malmö hotel opening?
Gallery
People-watching: June 10th
National
Swedish airports launch cheeky safe sex toilet campaign
Sponsored Article
Why expat women are choosing Swedish natural birth control
Bupa
Sponsored Article
Healthcare: Nine questions every expat should ask
Sponsored Article
The millionaire teacher who leads by tough love
Sponsored Article
How to change the world: Malmö to Mogadishu
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

3,191
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