Pouring rain didn’t stop thousands of people from marching through the streets of Oslo on Saturday to both celebrate sexual diversity and drum up tolerance for it. Top state and city politicians joined the parade, which featured both serious and playful participants.
Norway’s government minister in charge of culture, Hadia Tajik, was among those calling for tolerance and support for gay rights. Participation by Tajik, a Muslim, was itself a symbol of support for Muslim marchers who say they suffer discrimination and worse in the Muslim community. Shahrooz Banaei from Iran was among those protesting how homosexuals are treated in his homeland, telling newspaper Aftenposten that gays live in fear in Iran and can be sentenced to death for their sexual orientation.
Norway’s government minister in charge of equality issues, Inga Marte Thorkildsen, also took a leading role in the parade as a majorette of sorts. The political participation in Saturday’s parade, which attracted a record 12,500 marchers, cut across party lines. Tajik is from Labour, fellow marchers Heiki Holmås (foreign aid minister) and Stian Berger Røsland (leader of the city government) are from the Socialist Left (SV) and the Conservative parties respectively, and Thorkildsen is from SV as well.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg from the Labour Party had earlier invited organizers of Skeive dager, the weeklong celebration of gay culture in Oslo, to a reception at the state’s official guesthouse. He spoke while surrounded by members of the local choir Oslo Fagottkor (fagott is the Norwegian word for a bassoon).
“You represent one of our time’s great challenges,” Stoltenberg said as he referred to gay advocates’ work to “break barriers together” as they’ve gone “from silence to openness, from condemnation to recognition, from suppression to pride.” He noted that “it’s been a painful journey for many of you,” but claimed there’s been a major change in views on homosexuality compared to just a few decades ago.
Stoltenberg also claimed that he’s most glad that Norway became the first country in the world to approve a marriage law “that gives everyone the right to marry who they love” when he was prime minister. Referring to a US Supreme Court ruling last week in favour of the same issue, Stoltenberg declared that “the world is moving forward.”