Metro Weekly

Iceland welcomed Mike Pence with rainbow flags to “celebrate diversity”

Iceland's president also wore a rainbow bracelet during his official meeting with Pence

Flags in front of Advania’s office — Photo: Monitor

Vice President Mike Pence was inundated with pro-LGBTQ rainbow insignia during his visit to Iceland.

Pence, who has a long history of anti-LGBTQ actions and statements, encountered rainbow flags and apparel throughout his time in the island nation, which is one of the most pro-LGBTQ countries in Europe.

President Guðni Jóhannesson met with Pence at Höfði House in Reykjavík on Wednesday, Sept. 4, greeting the vice president with a handshake that revealed a rainbow bracelet on his wrist.

Jóhannesson wore a similar bracelet to meet another anti-LGBTQ politician, Russian president Vladimir Putin.

According to PinkNews, witnesses reported that Iceland’s first lady, Eliza Reid, similarly wore a rainbow bracelet during the meeting.

The vice president was also forced to see rainbows prior to his meeting with Jóhannesson, as companies near the historic house where they met opted to swap their usual flags for Pride flags.

IT company Advania, whose offices are opposite Höfði House, changed its flags the morning of Pence’s visit, the Guardian reports.

“We just felt the need to celebrate diversity today and wanted to show that by flying the flags,” Advvania director Ægir Már Þórisson told local website Monitor.

Advania was joined by the Efling trade union’s headquarters nearby, which also opted to fly Pride flags on the day of Pence’s visit.

Iceland is one of the most progressive countries in Europe with regards LGBTQ rights.

Same-sex marriage has been legal since 2010, same-sex adoption has been legal since 2006, and in 2012 lawmakers altered laws surrounding gender identity and expression, allowing Icelanders to change their gender markers on official documents. Employment discrimination has also been banned since 2018.

Pence has a long history of opposing LGBTQ rights, including saying in June that Donald Trump banning American embassies from flying LGBTQ Pride flags during Pride Month was “the right decision.”

As governor of Indiana, Pence supported the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” which allowed businesses and individuals to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

And in 2000, he argued on his congressional campaign website that resources should be redirected from organizations fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic and instead invested in organizations that support conversion therapy.

This week, the White House argued that Pence doesn’t harbor anti-gay views because he had lunch with Leo Varadkar, openly gay prime minister of Ireland.

The statement was widely derided on social media, with GLAAD tweeting, “We can’t believe we have to say this but simply meeting with a gay person doesn’t erase Pence’s long history of attacking LGBTQ people through policy, legislation, and rhetoric. Nice try though.”

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Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's managing editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.

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