After the Laws: Is the Nordic Model Still a Reference? The Case of Iceland

Iceland has tackled fairly recently LGBT rights but reached relatively quickly equal rights within marriage (civil and state church marriage) and parentality (adoption, ART, etc.) following the Nordic trend of forerunners. As a Nordic country part of the Schengen area, Iceland represents an interesting comparative counterpoint to the southern European experiences, thanks to its strong history of equal rights and opportunities. Inclusive dispositions within family laws have been progressively adopted in Iceland since the first union law (Registered Partnership) was emanated in 1996, coupled with laws against discrimination within the penal code. These rights have been gained through a thorough monitoring by LGBT activists and LGBT main association Samtökin ‘78 which constantly challenged existing legal discriminations.

Therefore the youngest generation of Icelanders (born after 1996 when the Register partnership became law) grew up in a society where same-sex relationships are visible and legally recognized while the oldest couldn’t even put a name on what they were living.

The research presented in this paper aims at assessing how individuals live in this evolving legal context. It comprises 30 interviews to people from 21 to 53 years old; the respondents represent three generational groups that grew up in the different legislative eras.

The interviews touch on the changes of the social context, visibility and the perception of societal attitudes towards homosexuals, as well as the transformations of everyday individuals. In particular it identifies which developments the oldest cohort deems as noteworthy and which are the key differences in relation to the youngest, etc.

In particular the paper focuses on three areas of life: the making and living of the family, marriage and cohabitation, discrimination and homophobia. Overall it appears that although the legal context is defined as satisfactory, the society is slow to change and heteronormativity is often the framework of everyday life, which homosexuals have still to confront.