LGBT rights in the Faroe Islands

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LGBT rights in the Faroe Islands Faroe Islands
Faroe Islands
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Decriminalized since 1933, age of consent equalized since 1988.
Gender identity/expression legal[1]
Military service Gays and lesbians are allowed to serve openly in the army since 1978
Discrimination protections Yes, but for hate crime and hate speech only
Family rights
Recognition of
No recognition
Adoption No stepchild adoption and joint adoption for same-sex couples. Unknown whether individuals can adopt.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the Faroe Islands may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. While same-sex sexual activity has been legal in the Faroe Islands since the thirties, same-sex couples and households headed by same-sex couples remain ineligible for some legal rights available to opposite-sex couples. However, after long having been a taboo subject, public opinion on homosexuality and transgender issues is becoming more liberal, and in April 2016 the Løgting passed legislation legalizing civil same-sex marriage on the Faroes as well as recognizing same-sex marriages established in Denmark and abroad. Yet to be ratified by the Folketing and obtaining royal assent.

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity has been legal in the Faroe Islands since 1933, when it was legalized in all parts of the Danish Realm. At that time, the age of consent was set at 18 for male same-sex relations. While Denmark (incl. the County of Greenland) lowered the age of consent to 15 in 1977, making it gender-neutral, the autonomous Faroe Islands did not change its law until 1988.[2]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Denmark legalised same-sex marriage in 2012 and Greenland's identical law took into effect on 1 April 2016, but similar attempt had been rejected in the Faroe Islands, until a law was finally passed in late April 2016.

An attempt to introduce Denmark's registered partnerships law in the Faroe Islands was considered in 2007, but it was never submitted to the Faroese parliament; whilst a same-sex marriage bill was rejected by the parliament in 2014, prior to the 2015 election. Following that election, a same-sex marriage bill was put to the parliament in September 2015. The proposed bill included civil marriage and full adoption rights for same-sex couples in line with the laws of Denmark and Greenland.

It had its first reading on 24 November 2015 and a second reading was initiated on 16 March 2016.[3]

At first there could be found no majority for the proposal, however, as two members from the coalition: Kristin Michelsen and Heðin Mortensen from the Social Democratic Party said that they could not vote for the proposal and they instead suggested that the proposal was sent back to the Welfare Committee. Kári P. Højgaard, Kaj Leo Holm Johannesen and Kristin Michelsen declared that they would vote against the proposal, since the proposal was worded in a way that it may be construed to allow religious marriage for same-sex couples, a very controversial decision in the Faroe Islands. They instead proposed to send the law proposal back to the Welfare Committee for further editing. At the second reading in March 2016 the Løgting voted for the suggestion to send the proposal back to the committee with 26 members for and 2 against.[4] The politicians who supported the marriage law saw no other outcome than to send the proposal back to the committee, as there was not a majority who supported the bill at that time.

The bill was tabled again for the continued second reading on 26th April, 2016.[5] After a very long meeting which started at 11 in the morning on 26 April and ended after midnight, the Løgting voted at 00:30 on 27 April. Heðin Mortensen withdrew a proposal about a referendum, which he had proposed earlier. It had caused a government crises. Mortensen asked for a short break, so that he could discuss the matter with his party and the other coalition parties. After one and a half hours break he withdraw his proposal.

There is a paragraph in the Danish marriage law which may be construed to allow all civil married couples to have their marriage blessed in the Faroese state church. However, the four women who proposed the adoption of the Danish marriage law by the Faroese parliament realized that they would not get a majority to vote for the proposal, if the law allowed same-sex civil married couples to have their marriage blessed by the church. They therefore entered a proposal for a change of the Danish law, where § 14, 2 was either taken away or rephrased so that civil married couples could not have their marriage blessed in the church. It was approved by a 17-16 majority consisting of the coalition.

Just after this the parliamnt voted yes to the proposal in the second reading to implement the Danish marriage law with 19 votes for and 14 against. The members of the coalition and Sonja Jógvansdóttir and two members of the opposition: Magni Laksáfoss and Edmund Joensen from the Union Party voted yes.[6]

The third reading of the bill was held on 29 April 2016. Opponents of the law advanced a repeated proposal that the law be subject to a referendum, but this proposal was defeated in a 17-16 vote. The bill passed with 19 votes for and 14 against.[7] The bill now awaits formal ratification in the Danish Parliament.[8][9]

Adoption rights[edit]

The same-sex marriage legislation passed on 29 April 2016, contains provisions allowing adoption of children by same-sex couples.[10]

Discrimination protections[edit]

Denmark's prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation came into force in 1987. The Faroese parliament proposed a similar bill in 1988, but the bill was rejected with only one member voting for and 17 voting against.[11] The bill was not proposed again until November 2005, when it was again rejected by a vote of 20 to 12. The members who voted against it claimed that since "homosexuality goes against the Bible," discrimination against a person on that basis should be lawful. Numerous insulting remarks were also made by Faroese MPs, including the equating of LGBT people with sinners and pedophiles.[12][13] The vote attracted the criticism of an Icelandic MP.[14]

Despite the legislative attempts, the issue did not become a source of public debate until 2006, when openly gay musician and popular radio host Rasmus Rasmussen was assaulted by five men in Tórshavn.[15][16] Rasmussen's family members then began receiving threatening phone calls. However, the police refused to handle the case because there was no Faroese law banning discrimination against sexual minorities at the time. An internet petition collected 20,000 signatures from different parts of world, which most of the signatures mainly came from Denmark, Iceland and Faroe Islands, urging the Faroese parliament to legislate against discrimination based on sexual orientation.[17] At the same time, eight women from Tórshavn also collected 2,000 signatures via e-mail through collecting signatures around Faroese shops, tourist centers and gas stations.[18]

At the time, a poll conducted by Faroese newspaper Sosialurin showed that the Faroese public was divided on the issue. [19]

On 15 December 2006, in a 17–15 vote, Faroese legislators approved the inclusion of the words "sexual orientation" in anti-discrimination law § 266B. § 266B states that "whoever publicly or with the intention of dissemination to a wider circle makes a statement or other communication by which a group of persons are threatened, insulted or degraded on account of their race, color, national or ethnic origin, religion or sexual orientation is liable to pay a fine or be imprisoned for up to two years."[20][21] When the law took effect on 1 January 2007, the Faroe Islands became the last Northern European country to ban discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation.

Living conditions[edit]

Prior to 2012, LGBT rights was not a high-profile issue in the Faroe Islands.

The Faroe Islands had been viewed by neighboring countries and worldwide media as a homophobic country for a long time. Generally, this was because religious observance is stronger and more widespread in the Faroe Islands than any other Nordic country,[22] and due to the lack of gay rights, such as recognition of same-sex unions, particularly when compared with other Nordic countries. Both factors created a perception that Faroese people were intolerant of LGBT individuals. In the past, the demonization of LGBT people as "monsters" or "freaks" by Faroese churches or religious leaders was quite common,[12] and until recently there was limited knowledge or discussion of LGBT people and their rights, leading many Faroese LGBT people to remain in the closet for decades out of fear of discrimination. There were also cases of Faroese LGBT people rejected by family or friends, and of LGBT people being forced to take refuge in other Nordic countries to escape discrimination or have their rights recognized. Some living overseas even refused to return to the Faroe Islands.[13][23] On top of that, there were also a number of high-profile homophobic incidents widely reported in the Scandinavian press.

High-profile homophobic incidents[edit]

  • The first gay pride march in the islands in 2005 provoked much controversy and criticism.[24]
  • In 2005, the members of Great Garlic Girls, a group of Norwegian males who perform in drag, had to run for their lives when a gang of young men, intent on physically assaulting them, chased them down a street in Tórshavn during their performance. Nowhere else had the group been physically attacked.[12]
  • In 2006, Rasmus Rasmussen, a popular and respected Faroese singer, songwriter, guitarist, and radio host was severely beaten by five men in Tórshavn and hospitalised, shortly after he publicly came out. He was later moved to a psychiatric hospital, suffering from deep depression allegedly exacerbated by the beating. Following media reports of the attack, he and his family received threatening telephone calls.[12] The Danish Prime Minister and Nordic Council expressed their concerns on the issue. Meanwhile, in an interview with Danish media in December 2006, Rasmussen said that he grew tired of condescending glances and mocking comments from Faroese society.
  • In November 2006, conservative politician Óli Breckmann told the Danish media that "accepting gay rights in the Faroe Islands would pervert the entire generation... I'm afraid that after passing the proposal (to include the words "sexual orientation" into § 266B), politicians will advocate for the need to protect pedophiles." Faroese Prime Minister Jóannes Eidesgaard, who supported the law proposal, expressed shock that "(Breckmann) was comparing homosexuals to a criminal group (pedophiles)." John Johannesen from the Social Democratic Party demanded that Breckmann take back his words. Union Party chairperson Kaj Leo Johannesen criticized Breckmann for making frivolous statements and not showing the legislative proposal the respect it deserved. Even the membership of Breckmann's own People's Party did not defend his statement; chairperson Anfinn Kallsberg said that such statements "show the Faroe Islands in a bad light". And Amnesty International Faroe Islands chairperson Margretha Nónklett said that "these kinds of statements are harmful to the whole homosexual community. It shows how they are being demonized in the Faroe Islands"[25]
  • In 2010, Christian Centre Party MP Jenis av Rana declined a dinner invitation with Icelandic Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, a married lesbian, explaining that he did so "because of the party's views against same-sex marriage." He provoked further controversy by claiming that the majority of Faroese people would agree with his statement.[14] This incident was widely reported in the Scandinavian press and earned him much criticism, particularly from the Faroese, because of the potentially damaging nature of his actions to diplomatic relations between Iceland and the Faroe Islands. Some also criticized Jenis av Rana for damaging the reputation of the Faroe Islands.[26]
  • In June 2015, Løgting Speaker Jógvan á Lakjuni wrote a letter to the editor titled "Hvar eru vit á veg?" ("Where are we heading?").[27] Jógvan á Lakjuni wrote that "we can see how selective [national broadcasting company] Kringvarp Føroya is - i.e., how much space the LGBT and its president get - while others, who try to speak against them, are ridiculed and ignored! And then there is the Nordic House in Tórshavn, which now just before the Ólavsøka, our Christian national holiday, will have a so-called "dragshow", where the homo-organization also plays a major role. What is this? Do these people not feel any shame at all, dragging such non-culture into the Nordic House?"[28]
Eiler Fagraklett in 2015.
  • In August 2015, one of the themes that garnered a relatively high amount of attention in that year's general election campaign was same-sex marriage. The Centre Party quoted God and the Bible on several occasions. On 29 August 2015, there was an open air prayer meeting in front of the parliament for people to pray for the election, and for marriage between one man and one woman, because organizers felt the Christian foundation of Faroese society was being threatened.[29] Four members of different Christian congregations sent out an appeal to the public to gather on the Tinghúsvøllur in front of Parliament and pray.[30][31] Centre Party leader Jenis av Rana compared the LGBT Føroyar organization with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which ran a campaign against pilot whale hunting in the Faroe Islands in 2014 and 2015. Jenis av Rana claimed that both LGBT Føroyar and Sea Shepherd were threats from abroad against Faroese society, but that he considered LGBT Føroyar to be a worse threat, because the Sea Shepherd Society was only present for the summer while LGBT Føroyar was in the Faroe Islands all year long and represented a far bigger threat to Christian values. Jenis av Rana repeated much the same thing in July 2015, suggesting that the Pride parade held in the center of Tórshavn just before the Ólavsøka national holiday should be moved to Hoyvík, outside of Tórshavn, just as had been done with whaling protesters in 2014.[32] Eiler Fagraklett, a spokesperson for LGBT Føroyar, responded on Facebook that he was deeply hurt by the discussion about Faroese marriage law, and especially by the description by many Faroese during the electoral campaign of gay people as big sinners. Fagraklett also pointed out that the prime minister, the speaker of the Løgting, the mayor of Tórshavn, three priests, and 800 others had participated in the prayer meeting in front of parliament to pray for the election of those who were against gay marriage.[33]

Recent developments[edit]

Later developments suggested that the Faroe Islands were becoming more liberal, even though the laws are still conservative compared to other Nordic countries, partly due to the outlawing of discrimination towards LGBT people, which in turn encouraged many to come out publicly and the previous negative attitudes towards LGBT individuals have been softened.[23] Various LGBT exhibitions on the islands such as "Hvat er natúrligt?"[34] and "Gay Greenland"[35] also helped increase public support for the LGBT community.

In addition, the Faroese LGBT population received support from well-known Faroese figures such as singer-songwriter Eivør Pálsdóttir, who defended gay people in an interview with Icelandic media, saying that those with narrow-minded opinions on gays and transgender people should be ignored.[36] [37]

Despite recent liberalization of attitudes towards LGBT people, limitations on their living conditions remain. Signs of a visible gay scene in the Faroe Islands are very limited. Furthermore, many members of parliament and government officials still hold homophobic attitudes or use religious reasoning to criticize LGBT people and block moves towards increased LGBT rights.[38] The country scored very low in both the ranking of 'Rainbow Map Europe 2013' and 'Rainbow Map Europe 2015'.[39][40][41]

Sonja Jógvansdóttir became the first openly gay person to be elected to the Faroese parliament after the September 2015 general election. She received 1,020 votes, making her the third-most popular Faroese politician. She was a prominent figure in the fight for legalization of same-sex marriage.[42] A law allowing same-sex marriage was proposed in 2015. A petition against this law received 1,262 signatures.[43] In April 2016, the law was passed in the Faroese parliament with 19 votes for and 14 against.[7] The bill now awaits formal ratification in the Danish Parliament.[44][45]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1933)
Equal age of consent Yes (Since 1988)
Anti-discrimination laws in hate crime and hate speech Yes (Since 2007)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment No
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Same-sex marriage(s) Yes (Yet to be ratified by the Folketing and Royal Assent)[46]
Recognition of same-sex couples Yes (Yet to be ratified by the Folketing and Royal Assent)
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples Yes (Yet to be ratified by the Folketing and Royal Assent)
Joint adoption by same-sex couples Yes (Yet to be ratified by the Folketing and Royal Assent)
Gays allowed to serve in the military Yes (Denmark responsible for defence. Since 1978)
Right to change legal gender legal requires surgery (requires surgery) [47]
Access to IVF for lesbians No
MSMs allowed to donate blood No[48]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jan Dagø (2013-10-23). "Holdningsskred i synet på homoseksuelle på Færøerne | Information" (in Danish). Retrieved 2016-05-19. 
  2. ^ Faroe Pride
  3. ^ Gaard, Heini (15 March 2016). "Lagnan hjá hjúnabandslógini avgjørd mikudagin" (in Faroese). Kringvarp Føroya. Retrieved 15 March 2016. 
  4. ^ Johannesen, Johnsigurd (16 March 2016). "Hjúnabandslógin aftur í Trivnaðarnevndina" (in Faroese). Retrieved 16 March 2016. 
  5. ^ Hjúnabandslógin til viðgerðar aftur týsdagin
  6. ^ Gregersen, Árni (27 April 2016). "Uppskot um at samkynd kunnu giftast samtykt" (in Faroese). Retrieved 27 April 2016. 
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ 19/2015 Uppskot til rikislógartilmæli um at seta í gildi fyri Føroyar partar av broytingum í hjúnabandslógini og rættarvirknaðarlógini
  9. ^ "Faroe Island Approves Same-Sex Marriage and Adoption". The Perchy Bird Blog. 29 April 2016. 
  10. ^ "Faroe Island Approves Same-Sex Marriage and Adoption". The Perchy Bird Blog. 29 April 2016. 
  11. ^ Being the ‘Other’ from the Faroe Islands
  12. ^ a b c d
  13. ^ a b
  14. ^ a b Faroe Islands MP refuses to dine with Iceland’s gay prime minister and her partner
  15. ^ Norden: Minister to explain Faroese gay policy
  16. ^ [DR2 Tema: De sidste bøsser på Færøerne]
  17. ^ Homophobia "perfectly legal" in Faroe Islands
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Poll: Faroese voters are more divided than the MPs on whether homosexuals should be protected by the Faroese Criminal Code § 266B. (In Danish only)". 
  20. ^ Island Chain Votes To Ban Discrimination Against Gays
  21. ^ §266b
  22. ^ Faroese religion
  23. ^ a b
  24. ^
  25. ^ (in Danish)  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  26. ^
  27. ^ Lakjuni, Jógvan á (10 June 2015). "Hvar eru vit á veg?" (in Faroese). (Sosialurin). Retrieved 29 June 2015. 
  28. ^ Lakjuni, Jógvan á (11 June 2015). "HVAR ERU VIT Á VEG?" (in Faroese). Retrieved 29 June 2015. 
  29. ^ Hentze, Bergljót; Mohr, Bjarni (25 August 2015). "Biðja fyri løgtingsvalinum" (in Faroese). Kringvarp Føroya. Retrieved 1 September 2015.  Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help)
  30. ^ Eidesgaard, Marin (26 August 2015). "Prestar fara at biðja fyri valinum og hjúnabandinum" (in Faroese). Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  31. ^ Nielsen, Jóanis (29 August 2015). "Nógv fólk til bønarátak á Tinghúsvøllinum - myndir" (in Faroese). Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  32. ^ Bertholdsen, Áki (6 July 2015). "Samkynd skrúðgonga á ólavsøku skal bannast" (in Faroese). Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  33. ^ Midjord, Høgni (30 September 2015). "Eiler Fagraklett - Kjakið um samkynd særir meg djúpt" (in Faroese). Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^ 19/2015 Uppskot til rikislógartilmæli um at seta í gildi fyri Føroyar partar av broytingum í hjúnabandslógini og rættarvirknaðarlógini
  45. ^ "Faroe Island Approves Same-Sex Marriage and Adoption". The Perchy Bird Blog. 29 April 2016. 
  46. ^ 19/2015 Uppskot til rikislógartilmæli um at seta í gildi fyri Føroyar partar av broytingum í hjúnabandslógini og rættarvirknaðarlógini
  47. ^
  48. ^ "Vantandi rættindi og mismunur". Retrieved 2014-04-05. 

External links[edit]