Reykjavík Court Rules in Favour of Lúsífer

Héraðsdómur Reykjavíkur Reykjavík District Court

The Reykjavík District Court has revoked a Naming Committee ruling preventing an Icelandic man from adopting the name Lúsífer. The man, named Ingólfur Örn Friðriksson, applied to change his second name to Lúsífer in December 2019. The Icelandic Naming Committee, which must give approval for all names that are not in the national registry, denied the application on the basis that Lúsífer is one of the names for the devil and could therefore do the name bearer harm. The Icelandic state has been ordered to pay ISK 900,000 ($7,480/€6,130) in legal costs.

Ingólfur sued the state after his name change was denied on the grounds that the decision violated his religious freedom. Ingólfur adheres to LaVeyan Satanism and has been a member of the Church of Satan since 2001. He argued that Lúsífer means “bearer of light” and the name was not the name of the devil, but rather “the name of the supreme angel of God who was later cast down to hell where he became the devil.” Ingólfur has been using the name Lúsífer for around 20 years when he applied for the official change.

According to the modern Icelandic dictionary, Lúsífer is not used as a name for the devil, but it is the Icelandic name of a deep-sea fish known as the Atlantic footballfish. The fish is a sort of “light-bearer:“ it uses a luminous bulb to attract smaller fish in the dark depths of the ocean. The name Lúsífer was also used historically to refer to the planet Venus.

Read More: Bill Introduced to Abolishing Naming Committee

The Icelandic Naming Committee maintains a register of approved Icelandic given names and governs the introduction of new names into Icelandic culture. Its existence has been a topic of debate in recent years. Parents who want to give a child a name that is not included on the register must apply to the committee for an exception. Given names must conform to Icelandic grammar rules and it is forbidden to take on a new family name (most Icelanders have patronymics).

Minister of Justice to Present Bill on Abolishing Naming Committee

Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir minister of justice

Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir is introducing a bill tomorrow that would abolish Iceland’s controversial naming committee, which controls what names can be given in Iceland. If passed, the bill would give locals “freedom to bear the name you choose, to adopt a new family name and no maximum to the number of names” would be prescribed to individuals, Áslaug wrote in a Twitter post. She encouraged Twitter users to contact her with stories about how they have been negatively impacted by Iceland’s strict naming laws.

The Icelandic Naming Committee maintains a register of approved Icelandic given names and governs the introduction of new names into Icelandic culture. Its existence has been a topic of debate in recent years. Parents who want to give a child a name that is not included on the register must apply to the committee for an exception. Given names must conform to Icelandic grammar rules and it is forbidden to take on a new family name (most Icelanders have patronymics).

Legal and language experts have argued that Iceland’s naming regulations are unconstitutional and discriminatory. Dissolving the naming committee has been proposed by various parties in Parliament on several occasions in recent years. The most significant amendment that has been made to naming legislation recently occurred last year, when they were changed in line with the Gender Autonomy Act passed by Parliament.

The topic resurfaced last year when the legislation restricted two sisters from adopting a new family name. They grew up in extreme poverty and neglect at the hands of their father and had not been in touch with him for over a decade, yet naming law meant they could not drop their patronymic and replace it with a new last name. Áslaug stated that she has often used the sisters’ example to point out the injustice of Iceland’s naming laws.

Áslaug’s bill would, however, take steps to ensure that children are not given names that could cause them harm (one of the duties of the existing Naming Committee it proposes to abolish). According to the bill’s provisions, the National Registry would be notified in such cases and would seek the expertise of the Ombudsman for Children.

“I believe that people’s right to choose their own name is richer than the state’s right to restrict. This is an important step toward increasing people’s freedom,” Áslaug told Vísir.

Icelandic Names Will No Longer Be Gendered

Reykjavík pride

Icelandic given names will no longer be differentiated as being “male” or “female” in the national naming registry, RÚV reports. This means that anyone will be able to take any name in the registry, irrespective of gender, and marks a major change in Icelandic naming conventions. Per the previous provisions of the country’s naming laws, “Girls shall be given female names and boys shall be given male names.”

The removal of gender from given names is one of the changes that will go into effect as part of the Gender Autonomy Act that parliament passed last week. It applies to both parents naming their children and to adults who want to officially change their names. The Gender Autonomy Act also gives individuals the right to change their official gender according to their lived experience and register as neither male nor female (denoted with an “x” on documents).

Unisex names allowed

Under the previous naming laws, no name could be given to both men and women, except in rare cases where there was an existing precedent for this. If a woman, therefore, wanted to take a name that was registered as a male name, she would have to submit a petition to the Icelandic Naming Committee for approval, and vice versa.

This very aspect of the law came under international scrutiny in 2013, when Blær Bjarkardóttir Rúnarsdóttir, then 15 years old, was informed by the state that she would have to change her name because “Blær” was only allowable as a boy’s name. Her mother, Björk Eiðsdóttir, had named her Blær as an infant, citing previous usages of the name for women, but had not received Naming Committee approval for this and as such, all of her daughter’s official documents and passport referred to her only as “Stúlka,” or literally, ‘Girl.’ Blær and Björk sued the state for Blær’s right to continue to bear her name, which she won that same year.

Just last year, the same situation came up again when the Icelandic Naming Committee rejected a petition to allow a four-year-old girl to bear the name “Alex.” Per the committee’s rationale, Alex was only recognised as a boy’s name. This decision was reversed in March 2018, as examples were furnished of the name being used for girls as well.

Gender neutral family names

The new Gender Autonomy Act will also allow individuals who register their gender as ‘X’ to take gender neutral family names in lieu of patro- and matronymics that designate the bearer as being someone’s son or daughter. The status quo is for children to be given a name that specifies them as being either male or female using the suffixes -son or -dóttir. But now, there is a gender neutral option in the name ending -bur, which doesn’t carry any gendered connotation.

Take as an example as person named Alex. Instead of having to go by the name Alex Jónsdóttir (literally, ‘Alex, daughter of Jón,’) or Alex Jónsson (‘Alex, son of Jón’), this individual could elect to take the name Alex Jónsbur: Alex, Child of Jón. It’s important to note, however, that this gender neutral option will only be available to Icelanders who are officially registered as neither male not female. People registered as female will still be required to take the patro- or matronymic -dóttir and people registered as male will still have to use -son.

Given Name “Woman” Rejected by Naming Committee

Elín Eddudóttir’s request to adopt Kona as her second name was rejected yesterday by the Icelandic Naming Committee, RÚV reports. It is not the first time the name, which simply means “woman” in Icelandic, has been rejected by the committee. Elín says the committee’s reasoning behind the decision was unclear and she has requested further explanation.

The Icelandic first name Elín is often followed by a second name or middle name. Elín Eddudóttir says she is often asked whether her name is just Elín, and has often thought about adopting a second name. In 2014, she read an interview with Kristbjörg Kristjánsdóttir, who said the Naming Committee had twice rejected her request to adopt the name “Kona.”

“I thought to myself that that would be a cool name and I wanted to be called that. So I requested it but didn’t get it,” Elín stated. “I won’t abide by that and have sent the Naming Committee a response.”

The Icelandic Naming Committee maintains an official register of approved Icelandic names and governs the introduction of new names into the register. All names given in Iceland must be approved by the committee, whose value is widely debated in Iceland. The Icelandic parliament has repeatedly discussed dissolving the committee and slackening naming laws.

Violation of naming laws

According to the ruling Elín received yesterday, the name Kona violates Article 5. Act No. 45/1996. According to that article, given names must take declension in the genitive (fourth) case in Icelandic and have precedent in Icelandic naming tradition. Names must conform to the Icelandic grammatical system and should be written according to the general rules of Icelandic spelling, unless there is a tradition for unconventional spellings. The article further states that girls shall be given women’s names and boys shall be given men’s names and that given names should not do harm to the person to whom they are given.

The word kona is a common noun used for female individuals of a certain age, the ruling states. It is not however explicitly banned in Icelandic naming laws, and several names with similar meanings exist in Icelandic naming tradition, such as Karl (man), Sveinn (young man), and Drengur (boy). The aforementioned names, however, have a long history in Icelandic naming tradition, some appearing in ancient manuscripts or other Nordic languages. Kona, according to the ruling, does not enjoy such a tradition and violates the Icelandic grammatical system.

Does Iceland have a naming committee for pets as well?

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1553856588000{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]Q: In Iceland, you need permission from a naming committee to name your children. Do you also have to get permission to name your pets?

A: Iceland indeed has a committee known as the Personal Names Committee which keeps track of all approved Icelandic given names and functions as a gatekeeper for the introduction of new given names into Icelandic culture. It was established in 1991 with the goal of ensuring new given names fit into Iceland’s language and culture. If a name is not on the official list of approved names, then an approval request must be submitted to the naming committee before the name can be given. The committee judges if names agree with Icelandic tradition and how likely they are to cause the bearers harm.

Now, let’s talk about pets. The answer to this is simple: you don’t need permission to name your pets. There is, however, a Horse Naming Committee. Horse owners only have to submit horse names to that committee if they want to enter their horse in official competitions. The Horse Naming Committee has only recently been formed and was deemed a necessary evil to preserve the Icelandic language. The committee checks if names are compatible with Icelandic grammar rules, but also if they are vulgar or form an acronym, so it works quite similarly to the Personal Names Committee. Marketing seems to be a motivating factor behind the Horse Naming Committee as well: it appears most people don’t like buying Icelandic horses with foreign names.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Naming Committee Approves Ínes and Rökkurdís

The Icelandic Naming Committee has approved two new names for girls, RÚV reports. Icelandic women may now legally bear the names Ínes and Rökkurdís (literally ‘Twilight Nymph’), both of which were deemed to correctly decline, conform to Icelandic spelling conventions, and meet the rest of the committee’s rules for acceptable names.

Around the same time that these two names were approved, the committee rejected the name Sigríður, typically a female name, as an acceptable name for a man to bear. Sigurður Hlynur Snæbjörnsson (who currently goes by Hlynur), a sheep farmer in North Iceland, had applied to the committee for permission to change his name to Sigríður, after his grandmother for whom he was named. The Naming Committee’s rejection of his request came as a surprise he said, given that there is a precedent of other names that have traditionally only been used for one gender being approved for use by both men and women, such as Auður, a traditionally female name which was approved as a male name in 2013, and Blær, which was also approved as a female name after a long and very public debate that same year.

Hlynur is still considering whether to appeal the decision in court.