Forum

Icelandic citizens don’t discriminate when choosing leader

Iceland has been enduring nearly constant protests since its government nationalized the banking system last fall, absorbing a debt several times the country’s gross domestic product. As the Icelandic public felt this crisis was poorly handled, it has called for the resignation of the government at the end of January.

This was afforded to the public with the resignation of Geir Haarde, so it came to pass that at the beginning of Feburary, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir took the helm as Iceland’s Prime Minister, at least until elections in May.

Sigurðardóttir is Iceland’s most popular cabinet member, and the only to see an increase in approval ratings in 2008.

We haven’t mentioned that she is a woman, and that she is a lesbian. We haven’t mentioned this because in Iceland, it hasn’t been an issue: The media hasn’t covered it, there haven’t been protests (at least about Sigurðardóttir’s sexuality) — and Sigurðardóttir has been active in the Icelandic government since 1978.

This indifference to Sigurðardóttir’s sexuality is not shared by the international media. Just as the United States’s election of Obama is frequently distilled to: “the United States elected a black man as President,” the media is now simplifying Iceland’s situation to their selection of the first openly gay leader of the world.

Sigurðardóttir’s rise to power should, and is, being supported and praised by the LGBT community internationally. Iceland has the practicality to focus on larger issues than the sexuality of its new prime minister, instead choosing a minister that the people would support as their government attempts to rebuild its banking system, stabilize its currency, and possibly join the European Union.

Iceland, as a nation and a people, has moved past gender and sexuality and toward judging its leaders by their abilities. We look forward to the day when America will focus on leadership ability rather than race or sexual orientation.