The impending visit of USA Vice President Mike Pence has been criticized by the director of LGBTQ organization Samtökin 78. Samtökin 78 president Þorbjörg Þorvaldsdóttir penned an op-ed in online news outlet Vísir.is titled “Not a chance, Mike Pence”, in which she criticized Mike Pence’s history of hate speech and actions against LGBTQ people. Þorbjörg called for Icelandic authorities to reconsider their stance on Pence’s visit, as it is disrespectful towards LGBTQ people in Iceland.
USA-Iceland relationship strengthens
The White House has confirmed that Mike Pence will arrive in Iceland on September 3 for an official visit, before heading to the United Kingdom and Ireland. Pence’s visit will focus on the geographical importance of Iceland in regards to the Arctic. Pence will also place emphasis on NATO operations to quell Russian activity in the area, as well as fostering and strengthening the business and investment relationship between Iceland and the USA.
It was revealed recently that the United States Air Force will increase their activities significantly in Iceland, investing in facilities at Keflavík airport for around ISK 7 billion (€50m, $56m). The construction means that the US Air Force has facilities to operate two fighter squadrons at all times, ensuring that there are 18 to 24 fighter jets ready for operation. It is believed that this is to increase submarine surveillance in the North Atlantic and the Arctic. Along with this, Icelandic authorities will invest ISK 300 million (€2.1m, $2.4m) for maintenance of NATO facilities at Keflavík airport. Iceland was a founding member of NATO in 1949.
A VP against queers?
Samtökin 78 have taken a clear stance against the official visit. According to Þorbjörg, Pence has more or less spent his whole political career working against queer rights. “Mike Pence is against our marriages. He was so wholeheartedly against them that in 2013, he signed laws as the governor of Indiana which made it a criminal offence to apply for a marriage certificate.” Þorbjörg also mentions actions such as Pence having signed a law in 2015 which allowed for discrimination of LGBTQ people based on religious opinions, criticizing laws intended to protect LGBTQ people from hate-crimes, as well publishing articles as editor of Indiana Policy Review encouraging businesses to not hire LGBTQ people. Furthermore, Mike Pence sat on the board of the Indiana Family Institute which recommends de-gaying. “Now the government of Iceland intends to receive Mike Pence, and talk courteously with him about business alliances and in doing so strengthening the alliance with USA. All such plans are disrespectful to the LBTQ people in Iceland. We will not sit quietly over the fact that he is invited to the country. Not a chance,” the article ended. The whole of Þorbjörg’s op-ed can be found here: https://www.visir.is/g/2019190819906
Previously, queer figure skater Adam Rippon criticized the fact that Mike Pence was to represent American authorities in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeochang. Currently, the 20th anniversary of Reykjavík Pride festival is taking place, ending on August 17.