WASHINGTON ― Pride Month comes to a close this year with no official White House recognition of the LGBTQ community’s struggle for equality in the U.S.
Rights advocates are worried about the views of many Trump administration appointees, including newly minted Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, who this week ruled against confirming same-sex couples’ right to choose who is listed on their children’s birth certificates.
Despite President Donald Trump’s Islamophobia-tinged claims that he will protect queer Americans, experts on the LGBTQ community believe the Trump administration could actually jeopardize recent gains.
“He and the administration that he’s put in place will do everything to roll back and unwind any progress that we’ve been able to achieve as a community,” Sarah Kate Ellis, the CEO of the media monitoring group GLAAD, recently told the Daily Beast, describing Trump’s failure to acknowledge Pride Month as a negative signal.
Earlier this month, HuffPost sought perspective from beyond the U.S. On June 8, days before the D.C. Pride Parade, we sat down with ambassadors from five countries seen as pioneers for LGBTQ inclusion: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland.
The diplomats described the philosophy of equality behind landmark moments like when Denmark became the first country in the world to legally recognize same-sex unions, back in 1989, and when in 2009 Iceland appointed the world’s first openly lesbian prime minister.
To these foreign officials, some aspects of the situation in America are still puzzling.
“The bathroom issue... was a big surprise to me,” Lars Gert Lose, the Danish ambassador to the United States said, referring to efforts to force transgender people to use restrooms associated with their assigned sex at birth rather than their actual gender. “In our country, we don’t think about these things anymore.”
Bjorn Lyrvall, the Swedish ambassador to the U.S., said the Nordic countries recognize that they still have progress to make. His government is focusing this year on the living conditions for transgender Swedes, for instance.
The diplomats believe full equality will take more mobilization ― of resources, of people and of countries working together. International cooperation, particularly among countries that prioritize LGBTQ rights, is key, said ambassador Kirsti Kauppi of Finland. She highlighted the role of the United Nations, a body the Trump administration has said it wants to punish for its alleged anti-Israel bias.
The message that could work abroad ― including in countries in Asia and Africa where LGBTQ individuals face major persecution, often thanks to U.S. evangelists’ intervention ― is that equality is part of the recipe for creating successful nations and economies, Kauppi continued.
Kare R. Aas, Norway’s ambassador to the U.S., said he’s optimistic that the success of the Nordic countries will encourage the Trump administration to see the light and follow their lead.
That kind of progress appears more likely when more Americans make their views known.
“I think if people are concerned about developments in this country, they need to become engaged,” Iceland’s ambassador to the U.S. and former Prime Minister Geir Haarde said.
The five diplomats collaborated on a Twitter town hall event on LGBTQ equality hosted by the Human Rights Campaign nonprofit the day of the interview; HuffPost interviewed them at the HRC offices following that event. Two days later, they marched together at the D.C. Pride Parade.
Watch the video above for more of their comments and more context on their countries.