Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre begged the pardon on Wednesday of thousands of skeive Norwegians (all those not heterosexual) who’ve been badly treated and even persecuted over the years. The official government apology comes in connection with this week’s 50th anniversary of the repeal of Norway’s anti-sodomy law.
Prior to April 21, 1972, more than 100 men in Norway were convicted for having had sex with another man. Støre noted that “119 people were made criminals and punished for their romantic relationships. They had to endure court cases, criminal convictions and prison. They faced public shame and condemnation.”
Støre acknowledged that “through the law but also a network of sanctions, we as a nation and a society clearly expressed that we did not accept non-heterosexual love. The government wants to apologize for that.”
The prime minister made his remarks before a group of invited guests from gay activist groups, veterans of Norway’s skeive community and other representatives of the LHBTIQ movement. He was joined by Anette Trettebergstuen, who serves as his government minister in charge of culture and equality and is skeiv herself. Both of them apologized for how people of various sexual orientation have been treated in Norway. Even though the sodomy law was repealed 50 years ago, it’s only been during the past 20-30 years that tabus have been removed and skeive Norwegians have mostly been accepted into society.
“I apologize today for a chapter in our history,” Støre said, in which careers were hindered, lives were shattered and many lost their jobs. He called it “a serious violation of our most important values: equality, justice and freedom. It was simply wrong, and when mistakes are made, they should be acknowledged.”
The leader of the national gay rights group FRI (Free), Inge Gjestvang, thanked Støre for the apology that many were calling “historic.” He regretted, however, that it came too late for those who were wronged and didn’t live long enough to experience acceptance and respect.
“We know there are many who are no longer among us who would have gladly heard this (Støre’s apology) here,” Gestvang told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), “but we will take this apology further in our battle for skeive rights.”
Trettebergstuen called the government’s apology “important, not only to spotlight the injustices that occurred but also for all the battles that still lie ahead.” The government’s goal, she said, “is to improve skeives’ standard of living and mental health. We will forbid conversion therapy, which undoubtedly has damaged those subjected to it.”
The Norwegian Police have already apologized for how gay men were arrested, charged and prosecuted. They also apologized, in 2019, for how police harassed and spread fear among homosexuals.
Others noted that today’s politicians can’t be blamed for the injustices of the past, but applauded how they’re now taking on responsibility for the wrongdoing, much like the Norwegian Church also has done earlier. One woman called it “a super-important signal” from the government that personal freedoms must be respected. Jens Kihl, culture commentator in newspaper Bergens Tidende, called Støre’s apology on Wednesday “a day for the history books.”