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Report: 'Arctic Nations' Represent 'Hope Spots' for LGBTQ+ Equality

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 3 MIN.

A number of "Arctic countries" score high on global LGBTQ+ equality – higher than the United States, which weighs in with a score of only 76, a new report from The Arctic Institute says. Russia is a glaring exception with a score of 31; by contrast, Nordic countries left the rest of the globe behind.

"Currently, there are an identified 23 regions comprising the world LGBTQ+ Equality map," the report explains. "Among all these regions, the region of Nordic countries ranks highest – 1st out of 23 regions – on the LGBTQ+ Equality Index with a score of 85 out of 100.

"Notably, four out of five Nordic countries are Arctic countries, which include Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Finland," the report went on to say.

Iceland ranked in first place among Nordic countries, with a score of 92/100. Denmark took the number two spot with a score of 88, followed by Norway (86), Sweden (79), and Finland (78). (Greenland's score of 96 was not counted, the report said, "because currently this country's Equality Index is based on legal rights alone.... While this numerical value is high, it represents partial data only.")

Canada weighed in with an impressive 84, beating nearly half of the Nordic nations, while its neighbor to the South, the United States, lagged behind with a relatively dismal score of 76 – a disparity that was visually heightened by use of a rainbow-themed color coding scheme that shaded Iceland in violet and Norway in blue, while Finland rated yellow and Canada showed up in green. Russia stood out starkly in red, and the U.S. fell in between, with an orange hue.

"Russia has demonstrated long-standing antipathy toward the LGBTQ+ community," the report noted, citing the country's so-called 'gay propaganda' law. "Initially," the reported noted, the measure "prohibited any positive mention of same-sexuality in the presence of minors, including online, and then in 2022 this prohibition extended to all positive same-sex references in any media, including in the presence of adults in addition to minors."

The situation in Russia became even more grim for LGBTQ+ people just last week, when the Russian Supreme Court ruled that the "LGBT movement" overall – which has no formal structure – was "extremist," effectively criminalizing supportive displays such as rainbow flags. More oppression followed swiftly, with police raids on gay gathering places like clubs and bars following only days later and an initiative to compile information on such gathering spots announced by a digital mapmaker.

The report factored in "complexity" where the legal and social situations are in flux or offer mixed results, as in the U.S., with the report noting that "while the United States is in a region that has an Equality Index ranking second out of 23 regions across the globe, and is a country with an Equality Index ranking 27 on a list of 193 countries, there is currently a national state of emergency for LGBTQ+ Americans.

"This national state of emergency follows an unprecedented increase in anti-LGBTQ+ legislative bills being introduced to state legislatures across the country, with many signed into state law," the report added. "In 2023 alone, more than 725 bills were introduced to state legislatures with more than 75 signed into law so far."

The report specified the targeting of transgender Americans, with policy assaults on their freedoms extending to "bans on medically necessary health care for transgender youth, and it is noted that while many states to date have enacted these laws these laws did not exist before 2021."

More complexity was found in the way the United States is not entirely contained in a contiguous area of land; outlier Alaska, which lies further North and falls within the Arctic Circle, registered "toward the low end of LGBTQ+ friendliness," the report detailed.

"Within context of a LGBTQ+ friendliness continuum that ranges from negative, low, fair, medium, and high, Alaska ranks among the bottom half of all United States."

Similar complexity was suggested even among supportive Nordic countries.

"While the Arctic is a representative hope spot on the world LGBTQ+ Equality map, the complex landscape within Arctic countries shows need for continue policy advocacy to achieve equity," the report said. "Being visible, celebrating who one is and who one loves are foundational to this continued policy advocacy for LGBTQ+ peoples."

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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