Embassies differ over gay colours

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Just months after the Russian Embassy in Oslo was hit by protests over Russia’s perceived attacks on gay rights, the US Embassy in Oslo is winning praise after taking its defense of gay rights to new levels. The Americans have adorned their building across from the Royal Palace with the rainbow colours signifying gay pride, and are promoting their gesture heavily.

The US Embassy in Oslo was decked out this week in the rainbow colours signifying gay pride, and the decorations were done at the embassy's own initiative. Gay rights advocates in Norway were delighted by the embassy's support at more than a week of events tied to gay pride kick off in Oslo. PHOTO: US Embassy via Facebook

The US Embassy in Oslo was decked out this week in the rainbow colours signifying gay pride, and the decorations were put up at the embassy’s own initiative. Gay rights advocates in Norway were delighted by the embassy’s support as more than a week of events tied to gay pride kicks off in Oslo. PHOTO: US Embassy via Facebook

“We think this is a fine way of showing our support for LHBT-rights,” the embassy’s Chargé d’Affaires in Oslo, Julie Furuta-Toy, stated in a press release sent to Norwegian media on Tuesday. She was referring to the importance of equality for all lesbian, homosexual, bisexual and transsexual people.

By Wednesday, photos of the colourfully adorned embassy were showing up on Norwegian websites after the embassy also promoted its unusual public gesture on social media sites. The embassy is usually a target of protests and often disparagingly referred to as “Fortress America” in Oslo. Now it’s attracting positive reaction, even though some media including state broadcaster NRK called its decorations a stunt.

The crosswalks just outside the Russian Embassy in Oslo took on the colours of the rainbow during the night. A similar stunt was carried out in Stockholm, also outside Russia's embassy there. It's viewed as part of rising international protests against crackdowns on gay rights in Russia. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

The Russian Embassy, in contrast, was ridiculed early this year with rainbow-coloured crosswalks, definitely not carried out at the Russians’ initiative, in protest over Russia’s lack of support for gay rights. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

“I think it’s incredibly cool that they’re making such a clear statement (about gay rights) on the street and on the Internet,” Bård Nylund, leader of Norway’s major gay rights group LLH, told NRK on Wednesday. “I drove past the embassy this morning and was a bit surprised. America is sending a clear signal that it supports LHBT rights.”

The signal is in sharp contrast to the one sent out by Russian leaders earlier this year, when a new Russian law seemed to trample on gay rights just before the Winter Olympics at Sochi. That prompted some demonstrators to colour the crosswalks around the Russian Embassy in Oslo in rainbow shades to protest the Russian attitudes, but the colours were quickly washed away by police.

The US, which has been caught in other major disagreements with Russia lately, is making a point this year of supporting the fight for equality and against discrimination of LHBT people around the world. It’s unlikely the US’ conservative and right-wing religious coalitions will be happy about the embassy’s rainbow demonstrations, but the embassy attached a recent statement by US President Barack Obama to its press release: “Let us honor every brave leader who stood up, sat in, and came out, as well as the allies who supported them along the way.”

The US Embassy also  announced that it was hosting a visit next week from Beth Zemsky, a psychotherapist and activist who’s a member of the US’ National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Council. Zemsky will lead a workshop at Norway’s Museum of Cultural History in Oslo and also meet with a string of organizations to share her experience in intercultural organizational development.

The embassy’s rainbow colours, wrapped around the security posts that ring the embassy, will remain in place through June 30 to coincide with EuroPride activities in Oslo that also commemorate what became a violent uprising at the Stonewall Inn  in New York in June 1969, which is widely credited with launching the gay rights movement in the US and around the world.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund