Last year, Sweden was singled out as the most gay-friendly tourism destination in the world, with Norway lagging in 10th place. But the new index from the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans & Intersex Association (ILGA) showed on Thursday that Norway is comfortably ahead of its glitzier neighbour when it comes to supporting gay people in the law.
The Rainbow Europe Map reflects 49 European countries’ legislation and policies that have a direct impact on the enjoyment of human rights by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual and intersex (LGBTI) people.
Norway scored 68 percent in the gay-friendly ranking, putting it ahead of Sweden (65 percent), Denmark (65 percent), and Iceland (64 percent). Finland with 45 percent scored more similarly to its Baltic neighbour Estonia (35 percent) than to its fellow Nordics.
The three most gay-friendly countries in Europe were the UK, Belgium, and Spain - fulfilling 82, 78, and 73 percent of the organization's requirements respectively.
The report credited Norway for introducing a far-reaching anti-discrimination law in June, and for starting a review in September on the health requirements for transgender people wanting to have their gender legally recognised.
"Norway remained among the countries most accepting of LGBTI persons, even though parts of the population still expressed discomfort," the report concluded.
It also noted that Hilde Raastad, the first female pastor to enter a civil partnership with a person of the same sex in 1997, had resigned her ministry after she was turned down for a string of jobs she'd applied to within Norway's Lutheran Church. The church has stated that bishops and clerical authorities have the right to turn down applicants for roles simply on the grounds of their sexual orientation.
The report also noted research that reported that 24% of male respondents said they “shivered with disgust” when thinking of homosexual men, indicating the work left to be done.
The European map showed a clear east-west divide. Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia were in the bottom five alongside western European mini-state Monaco.
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Italy defied the east-west divide and was the only country in western Europe that does not offer any form of rights or protection for the LGBTI community.
"While the human rights of LGBTI people have undoubtedly gained great visibility across Europe, progress in terms of real legal, political and social changes vary considerably from one country to another," said Gabi Calleja, co-chair of ILGA-Europe’s executive board.
"In large part depending on levels of societal acceptance, of political leadership and political will, as well as the strength of civil society in a given country.”