The world’s first-ever out lesbian head of government became Prime Minister of Iceland on February 1 2009. Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir was also the world’s first openly LGBTIQ+ head of government.
Note: Openly gay Per-Kristian Foss served as acting PM of Norway for a short period in 2002 while the current PM was overseas.
A member of the Icelandic parliament — the Althing — since 1978, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir won reelection at eight successive elections. During her long parliamentary career, she served on numerous committees and as a minister.
However, in 1994, she failed in an attempt to become the leader of her party. She said at the time ‘Minn tími mun koma!’ (My time will come!). The phrase quickly became iconic in the North Atlantic country and inspired the title of Jóhanna’s autobiography.
Becoming Prime Minister
In 2009, the then Prime Minister resigned amidst ongoing protests about the government’s handling of the Global Economic Crisis. The parliament turned to Jóhanna, the most popular minister in the outgoing coalition government. Asked by the president to form a coalition, she became PM on February 1 and consequently won a general election in April the same year.
Her appointment as PM aroused little controversy in Iceland. The North Atlantic country decriminalised same-sex sexual activity in 1940. It introduced civil partnerships in 1996 and the parliament voted unanimously for marriage equality in 2010.
Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir and partner Jónína Leósdóttir were among the first same-sex couples in the country to marry. The pair, both mothers, began their relationship in the 1980s after divorcing their husbands.
In 2020, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir posted to mark the 10th anniversary of her marriage to Jónína.
Simply because of who they love
“Today, it’s ten years since Jónína and I changed our Civil Partnership to marriage – on the first day of equal marriage in Iceland. This has been a privilege that we are extremely grateful for. But our thoughts are with the huge number of people, all over the world, who are still oppressed and are even in danger of being killed … simply because of who they love.”
Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir announced her retirement from politics in 2012, ahead of her 70th birthday. She left office as Iceland’s longest-serving member of Parliament.
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