The Unsung Heroes of the Gay Marriage Movement
Two decades before marriage equality took off in the States, a pair of dogged Scandinavian activists set the stage for a ruling that would change the world.
Photo via EPA/Keld Navntoft/Denmark Out/Newscom
On October 1, 1989, an event unlike any before in history took place at the Copenhagen town hall in Denmark. That Sunday, a national law went into effect that allowed same-sex couples to be joined in a civil union, and eleven gay male couples did just that — a school psychologist, a Lutheran minister and a high school teacher among them. One of the grooms, Eigil Axgil (né Eskildsen), then sixty-seven years old, told Rex Wockner, an American journalist who was there covering it, “We just never could have dreamed that we would get this far.”
They had plenty of reason for doubt. Four decades earlier, Eigil’s partner, Axel Axgil (né Lundahl-Madsen), launched Denmark’s first gay rights organization, the League of 1948 (whose name was later changed to the less-discreet Danish National Organization for Gays and Lesbians, or LBL for short). Out of the closet, Axel was fired from his bookkeeping job and evicted by his landlord, but forged ahead. It…