This is the English language part of the website of LGBT Denmark - The Danish National Organisation for Gay Men, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transgender persons.
Founded as early as 1948, LGBT Denmark is the main Danish LGBT rights organisation.
Our aim is to work for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people’s political, social, cultural and workplace equality at every level of society. We seek to work against discrimination and to function as a dedicated lobby for the purpose of influencing lawmakers, for example in areas such as marriage, adoption, the artificial insemination of lesbians, and rights for transpersons.
For more detailed information, please read our political agenda (PDF).
GAY GUIDES TO COPENHAGEN
If you plan to visit Denmark we suggest that you check out these guides to gay Copenhagen. We hope to see you soon.
Copenhagen Gay Life - a guide to gay and lesbian tourism in Copenhagen
Gay Copenhagen - a guide to places and events to check out while in Copenhagen
Out & About - a guide to the gay bars, cafés and restaurants in Copenhagen
LGBT History In Denmark
The overview below is based on the article in Danish, “LBL and other Danish gay movements”, which Inge-Lise Paulsen and Vibeke Nissen wrote to Lambda Nordica in 2000. It has since been supplemented and regularly updated by the LGBT Library.
The following is a version in English by Ian C. Harris.
When Was It?
Homosexuality was a crime in Denmark until 1930, at least for men. Danish law from 1683 stated: “Relations against nature is punishable by execution”. By a law of 1866, the death penalty was replaced by a sentence of prison labour. It wasn’t until 1933 that sex between adult men (aged over 18/21) was de-criminalised.
The history of LGBT in Denmark for each decade can be read about below.
Kredsen af 1948 (The Circle of 1948) is established in the city of Aalborg (north Jutland). The idea takes shape on Skt.Hans Aften (St.John’s Eve – a mid-summer festival celebrated throughout Denmark), so June 23rd, 1948, is regarded as the date of foundation. The man behind the idea and the driving force of the association is Axel Lundahl Madsen (later Axel Axgil). The association is for both homosexuals and bisexuals from the start, and the objectives are described as: Through personal connections and correspondence to create a free association of people who feel solidarity with other people with the same approach to homosexual and bisexual problems, as well as giving support and help with any difficulties.
Following World War II, the focus is on democratic values and rights, and homosexuals begin to organise themselves. Unlike other groups that were persecuted during the War, homosexuals are not included in the 1948 United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
The pink-triangle, that has been adopted as a symbol by homosexual organisations worldwide, had been worn on the clothing of male homosexuals in concentration camps, while lesbians wore a black triangle.
Kredsen af 1948 changes its name to Forbundet af 1948 (League of 1948) after opposition by an order of nuns who believe they have sole rights to the name “Kredsen”.
Forbundet af 1948 publishes the first issue of the periodical Vennen (The Friend). The publication serves as a membership magazine from 1949 until 1952. The editor is Helmer Fogedgaard located in Rudkøbing and using the pseudonym Homophilos. Vennen continues until 1970, and the last editor for many years is Martin Elmer.
The police in Copenhagen set up a special division to deal with homosexual cases. Many men are arrested for masturbating in public toilets.
Forbundet af 1948 holds its first AGM, and Axel Lundahl Madsen is elected president. The membership is already over 600, and the following year is close to 1,500.
The world’s first successful gender-modification operation is undertaken at Rigshospitalet (The State Hospital, in Copenhagen) with wide press coverage. The person operated on is 26 year-old Christine Jorgensen, a former American soldier.
The new membership magazine Pan is launched. Within a dozen years it is also the membership magazine in Norway and Sweden. With a few interruptions, the magazine is published until 2007 under such titles as Pan – bladet for homofile (Pan – the magazine for homophiles), Pan – bladet for bøsser og lesbiske (Pan – the magazine for gays and lesbians) and Panbladet (Pan Magazine). It is then revived with three further issues in 2009.
“The great pornography affair” means that a very large number of men are arrested and given prison sentences. Axel Lundahl Madsen is sentenced to one year in prison, and his future partner, Eigil Eskildsen (later named Eigil Axgil), is given eighteen months. Ekstra Bladet (a popular nation-wide magazine) estimates that between thirty and seventy people commit suicide to avoid the attention of the police in Copenhagen.
Membership of Forbundet af 1948 has fallen drastically. As a result of the police action only very few dare to join.
Folketinget (the Danish Parliament) enacts “Den Grimme Lov” (“The Ugly Law”) which criminalises relations with male “prostitutes” aged under 21, and the payment in question need be no more than a packet of cigarettes or money for a taxi home.
Following major political work by Forbundet af 1948, and with support from some politicians, as well as sections of the press, there is a change of attitude in the Parliament and “The Ugly Law” is repealed.
The legislation concerning prostitution is made equal for heterosexual and homosexual relations.
The Minister of Justice maintains that the police must intervene if two men dance together. This restriction is first removed in 1973.
After applying for twenty years, Forbundet af 1948 is officially registered as an association and is thereby recognised by the authorities. The registration is under the name Landsforeningen for homofile (The National Association for Homophiles) with the secondary name of Forbundet af 1948.
Riots at Stonewall Inn in Christopher Street, New York, marks a new beginning for homosexual liberation and the struggle for equal rights. Instead of seeking to be recognised according to the norms of the society around them, gays and lesbians now fight for liberation and realisation on their own terms. Every year since Stonewall, gays and lesbians the world over mark the gay struggle with Gay-Pride events on Christopher Street Day at the end of June. Since 1999, Pride is moved to August in Copenhagen.
Forbundet af 1948 opens the discotheque Pan Club in the restaurant Maritime at 28 Nybrogade in Copenhagen. During the 1950s, the association’s club with dancefloor is at Ølandshus on Amager, Copenhagen, and later at such locations as El Toro Negro and Lille Rosenborg, or Pink Club at 33 Åbenrå, also in Copenhagen.
Bøssernes Befrielsesfront - BBF (The Queer Liberation Front) is founded. BBF’ers think that Forbundet af 1948 is too bourgeois and “polite”, and the term “homophile” is self-oppressing. BBF’ers choose to use the derogatory term bøsse (which at that time is equivalent to ‘queer’ or ‘faggot’, but later becomes more neutral and equivalent to ‘gay’). BBF takes the offensive linking politics and sexuality. The objectives are the sexual-political awareness of gays, and the enlightenment of the general population with regard to gay politics, such as in the form of street-action and “gay caravans” around the country. From 1972, Bøssehuset (The Queer House) is set up in Christiania (a former military barracks in Copenhagen taken over by members of the counter-culture) where BBF holds weekly meetings and starts basis-groups. Later come Bøssekoret (The Queer Choir), Bøsserup Pigegarde (Queertown Girls Guard) and Den Storkøbenhavnske Bøssescene (The Greater Copenhagen Queer Stage) with well-attended cabaret shows. After 2006, Bøssehuset is a membership organisation for LGBT’ers.
Lesbisk Bevægelse - LB (Lesbian Movement) is established by activist lesbians from Rødstrømpebevægelsen (The Red Stocking Movement) and from Forbundet af 1948, and is based at Kvindehuset (The Women’s House, in Copenhagen). LB publishes the magazine Kvinder-Kvinder (Women-Women) until 1978, and from 1982 Hvidløgspressen (The Garlic Press). Lesbian weeks are organised at a camp on the appropriately named island of Femø. LB is also active in the Kvindehøjskolen (The Women’s College), but LB loses momentum around 1990.
The gay movement in Denmark grows during the 1970s, both inside and outside Forbundet af 1948. From the end of the 1970s, local branches are set up, and the Association opens cafés and discos in several towns, the so-called Pan-klubber, but they cease in 1994 as a result of the Association’s financial down-turn.
Parliament amends the law so that the age of consent (15) is the same for homosexual relations as for heterosexual, and rescinds the paragraph of the penal code giving up to four years imprisonment for sexual immorality with persons of the same gender under the age of 18.
Forbundet af 1948 is a co-founder of ILGA – International Lesbian and Gay Association.
Forbundet sells its premises at 33 Åbenrå in Copenhagen, and acquires parts of the property at 3 Knabrostræde in Copenhagen. Activities expand there in subsequent years to include a library and archive, Radio Rosa (Pink Radio), counselling, evening school, Pan Idræt (Pan Sport) and Pan Information, as well as many other social and cultural activities. The bar, café and discotheque become Copenhagen’s hottest spots.
The Board of Health removes homosexuality from the Danish list of mental illnesses.
Gå-Ud-Gruppen. (The Outreach Group) is set up to offer supplementary sex-education in state schools by giving information about homosexuality to the senior classes.
The name is changed to Landsforeningen for Bøsser og Lesbiske (LBL), Forbundet af 1948 (The National Association for Gays and Lesbians (LBL), the League of 1948). Five years earlier it is changed from Forbundet af 1948 – landsforening for homofile (The League of 1948 – national association for homophiles) to Forbundet af 1948 – landsforening for bøsser og lesbiske (The League of 1948 – national association for gays and lesbians).
The library for gays and lesbians is opened after many years of compiling a collection.
Radio Rosa (Pink Radio) is launched in Copenhagen as one of the country’s first local radios. It is active until closure in the summer of 2010.
The term “registered partnership” is created by LBL in a legislative proposal that the association presents in 1983. The name is the only thing that survives from the proposal, but it becomes the international standard.
Pan Idræt (Pan Sport) is established, originally as a part of LBL but later an independent organisation. Initially it is a swimming club, but rapidly has many more sports. In 2013 there are almost twenty different activities such as Ashtanga yoga, dance, golf, rowing, rugby and triathlon.
Parliament enacts a law giving equal treatment to co-habiting persons of the same gender as married couples with respect to inheritance tax.
A parliamentary commission to throw light on the situation of homosexuals in society publishes a review, ‘Want or Need? – male and female homosexuality’. The commission’s work leads to a number of legislative initiatives including the registered partnership. A majority in the commission concludes with the recommendation that the partnership is not introduced, but the opposition in Parliament put it forward and enacted the law (see 1989).
Activists in LBL start Stop AIDS Kampagnen (- Bøssernes hiv-organisation) (The Stop Aids Campaign – the hiv organisation for gays) and AIDS-Linien (The Aids Hotline). Prompted by the Association, Danish hiv/aids policies are based on voluntary, anonymous and clear information. From 1994 Stop Aids becomes an independent institution, and on January 1st, 2012, it merges with AIDS-Linien and AIDS-Fondet (The Aids Foundation) together with the counselling side of HIV-Danmark.
Some in LBL take the initiative to start Copenhagen Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, which changes its name in 2011 to MIX Copenhagen, LesbianGayBiTrans Film Festival.
Parliament amends the law against discrimination to include sexual orientation.
The commission on homosexuality submits its report, ‘The Situation of Homosexuals’.
Parliament enacts the law on registered partnership. The law is the first of its kind in the world, and the Danish registered partnership becomes the model for work in other countries. During the 1990s, the remaining Nordic countries introduce similar legislation, and other countries follow later. Several of them go still further with marriage, as does eventually the pioneering country, Denmark.
End of the happy days for LBL in Knabrostræde. The economy is kaput. Suspension of payments while bankruptcy is imminent, but averted. The premises are sold, the café-bar operation ceases, and a cheaper location is sought.
LBL moves into a rear courtyard building at 13 Teglgårdstræde and occupies all the floors with book-café / meeting room, library and archive, offices, Panbladet (the magazine), Radio Rosa and other activities.
Parliament passes the law prohibiting direct or indirect discrimination in employment on the grounds of sexual orientation (as well as race, colour, religion or belief, political opinion, age, disability or national, social or ethnic origin).
Effective combination therapy for HIV finally reduces the number of AIDS cases and deaths, but the number of people infected continues to grow.
Copenhagen is the European Capital of Culture and home to this year’s Europride. From 1998 it is called the Mermaid Pride, and from 2004 Copenhagen Pride. From 1999, Pride in Copenhagen is moved from June to August. In 2009, the festive occasion is enhanced by the World Outgames with sport, culture and conferences.
An episcopal committee recommends a ritual for the blessing of registered partnerships, but bishops (of the Danish national Lutheran church) choose not to follow the recommendation.
Parliament enacts a law on artificial insemination with a clause (paragraph 3) prohibiting treatment for lesbians and single women. Only the heterosexual nuclear family can get the seal of approval.
Parliament votes against the proposal to remove paragraph 3 of the law on artificial insemination. It happens again in 2000.
Paragraph 3 of the 1997 law on artificial insemination prohibits treatment by a doctor, but a midwife is not prohibited, and Nina Stork opens StorkKlinik, where several hundred lesbians are inseminated.
LBL launches a new periodical, Zink, but it ceases after two years.
With an amendment to the law on registered partnership, Denmark becomes the first country in the world to recognise two legal parents of the same sex, when registered partners get access to stepchild-adoption. However, it is only a partial solution, and despite later adjustments, the legal situation is not resolved even by 2013.
At the same time, persons from countries with such partnership-legislation have the same right as Danish citizens to enter a registered partnership, as do foreigners who have been resident in Denmark for at least two years.
LBL creates the International Department, which handles relations with ILGA (The International Lesbian and Gay Association) and ILGA-Europe, the EU (European Union), Council of Europe, OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) and the UN (United Nations). Increasingly, Global South handles LGBT-matters in the global south and in Danish overseas development policy.
At an LBL general meeting, a new political program is adopted that invites bisexuals into it.
The National Association initiates a network for parents and other family members of gays and bisexuals: Forældrenetværket (The Parents Network), later Familie og Venner (Family and Friends).
LBL’s initiative in respect of the organisation for ethnic minority homosexuals, Salon Oriental, wins it an Integration Prize from the City of Copenhagen. However, Salon Oriental discontinues a couple of years later. Cultural, political and social activities for LGBT’ers with other ethnic backgrounds is continued by Sabaah (new day or new beginning), founded in 2006. Sabaah uses the cultural centre, Kifak, in Kødbyen (the former meat-packing district of Copenhagen).
With 53 votes for and 52 against, Parliament finally gives lesbians the right to artificial insemination, after a nine year’s battle.
The UN’s Economic and Social Council gives NGO status to three gay/lesbian organisations: ILGA-Europe, the Danish LBL and the German LSVD.
After twelve years in Teglgårdstræde, LBL moves to a cheaper rental at 7 Nygade in Copenhagen to rescue itself from yet another economic crisis. The publication of Panbladet ceases for the time being.
On the second floor in Nygade are offices, reception and meeting rooms, and on the fourth floor meeting rooms for groups, but there is no space for the library, archive and Radio Rosa. The archive is transferred to Rigsarkivet (the State Archive) and the library is closed for a year. Radio Rosa rents premises in the district of Valby from April 2008, until it ceases in the summer of 2010.
LBL’s president, treasurer and two committee members step down, and there are great difficulties with internal relations because of the economic situation. The national general meeting votes against the report and instructs a temporary management to hold an extraordinary general meeting within three months.
The extraordinary general meeting agrees to include transgender people in the association, and elects a new national leadership.
The City of Copenhagen invites LBL and friends to pancakes at the city hall. The Association celebrates its 60th anniversary, and opens an anniversary exhibition in the city hall: ‘From Sachsenhausen to Yogyakarta – the history of rights’. (The title is a reference to two places representing opposite extremes in attitudes to homosexuals, the former being the Nazi concentration camp and the latter being in Malaysia where there was an international conference held in 2006 about the application of human rights in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity.)
7,357 people in Denmark live in registered partnerships, 420 are surviving partners (widows/widowers) and 1,626 have dissolved their partnerships. 4,499 women and 4,904 men are or have been involved in a registered partnership.
The LBL general meeting adopts a new structure that “slims” away all the Association’s departments with the exception of LBL-Youth, but without affecting the many social activities. At the same time ‘Strategic Forum’ is set up with political spokespersons together with a national management committee and representatives for counselling, social groups and the youth section.
The library opens in a reduced form in two of the meeting rooms on the second floor in Nygade after being closed for more than a year since the move from Teglgårdstræde.
LBL has a surplus of 248,425 kroner in the 2008 financial statement, and can repay some of its debts with tight control of the costs. The Association has moved from expensive rentals both in Copenhagen and the city of Aarhus in Jutland, and no longer has paid staff.
LBL-Youth publishes a magazine shOUT about sexuality, prejudice, love, affairs and sex, which is distributed to schools throughout the country.
Parliament passes legislation to improve conditions for a large group of rainbow-families. In the case of lesbian couples with children by artificial insemination, the co-mother can adopt the “step child” at birth instead of having to wait three months as hitherto.
World Outgames is held in Copenhagen with a great many participants and guests for sport, culture, Pride, parties and an international human rights conference, which LBL is helping to organise.
A new major study is made about the situation and living conditions of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transpersons, undertaken by CASA (Centre for Alternative Social Analysis) on behalf of LBL and World Outgames 2009.
As a consequence of LBL now including bisexuals and transpersons, the national general meeting unanimously adopts the new name: LGBT Danmark – Landsforeningen for bøsser, lesbiske, biseksuelle og transpersoner (LGBT Denmark – The national association for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transpersons).
Parliament agrees that homosexuals can apply to adopt on an equal footing with heterosexuals. The legislation is enacted by a majority (60 votes for and 54 against), though parties in the government were largely against it.
A new logo for LGBT Denmark is presented in connection with Skt.Hans Aften (the mid-summer festival).
For the first time the LGBT-area is named in a Danish government platform, even with an entire section dealing with gender-neutral marriage, efforts to combat hate crimes, the rights of co-mothers and new rules about gender-corrective treatment including legal change of gender.
With 85 votes in favour, 24 against and 2 abstentions, Parliament enacts a law on gender-neutral marriage. This ends 23 years of discrimination where couples of the opposite sex could marry, while couples of the same sex could only have a registered partnership. And now it can also be contracted in a state church.
Issues concerning children are not settled in this instance, but to be taken up in a forthcoming review of the marriage law’s legal effects.