Denmark marks 25th anniversary of becoming the first country to permit registered partnerships
Laws legalizing same-sex marriages are being commonly introduced today and famous figures are openly revealing their same-sex orientation. Liberal societies have grown accustomed to seeing the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community as a minority whose rights must be defended.
This was not always the case. The first country in the world ever to legally recognize same-sex couples was Denmark 25 years ago.
Denmark's law on registered partnership took effect on 1 October 1989. Same-sex relationships have been reported from the beginning of human society.
The existence and manifestations of such relationships have been either accepted, concealed or combated to various degrees throughout the course of European history. An exceptionally tolerant era was that of Ancient Greece; during the early Middle Ages, while sexual intercourse between persons of the same sex was considered sinful, it was more or less permitted.
The end of this societal benevolence arrived during the second half of the 13th century, when same-sex relationships were labeled "sodomy" and criminalized. Most people risked being burned at the stake if convicted of such behavior.
Currently, 18 countries around the world permit same-sex marriage and many states offer such couples registered partnerships, while in other countries same-sex couples are legally awarded rights similar to those of heterosexual couples (in matters of adoption or estate settlement). Despite this, in the 21st century there are still states where members of this minority are persecuted; in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Sudan, being gay gets you the death penalty.
Churches also traditionally campaign against same-sex marriage. The Danes became pioneers of the liberal relationship toward the LGBT community when, in 1989, they became the first country in the world to permit civil marriages of gays and lesbians under the term of a "partnership contract".
The Lutheran Church recognized that law in 1997, but with the proviso that same-sex wedding ceremonies would not take place in its churches. Danish legislators had decriminalized intercourse between persons of the same sex in the year 1930, and 18 years later the National Association for Gays and Lesbians was established there.
Selected milestones in the history of advocating for LGBT rights worldwide
1867 - Karl-Heinrich Ulrichs, a pioneer of the emancipation of same-sex couples, makes the first public demand for equal rights for gays in society at a congress of German jurists.
1897 - German doctor Magnus Hirschfeld establishes the first organization to protect the rights of gay people in Berlin, the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee (Wissenschaftlich-humanitäres Komitee, WhK).
1946 - In the Netherlands the "COC" society is establish, the oldest continually-existing gay organization in the world.
1967 - In New York City the Oscar Wilde Bookshop opens, historically the first shop of its kind catering to a gay clientele.
1978 - The rainbow flag is first officially used as the symbol of the gay and lesbian pride.
1981 - Norway becomes the first country in history to adopt legislation banning discrimination against gays.
1989 - Denmark becomes the first country in the world to adopt a law facilitating registered partnerships for same-sex couples.
1992 - The World Health Organization (WHO) removes homosexuality from the international classification of diseases.
2001 - The Netherlands becomes the first state to introduce same-sex marriage and to permit same-sex couples to adopt children.
2006 - The law on registered partnership takes effect in the Czech Republic.
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