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Denmark - a very LGBT+ friendly country

Denmark was the first country in the world to establish the right for same-sex couples to enter into registered partnership back in 1989. In 2023, Denmark was announced the third most LGBT+ friendly country in Europe with a high degree of legal protection for LGBT+ persons.

Denmark has stood in front when it comes to furthering the protection of rights for LGBT+ persons. In fact, in 2023 Denmark was on a third place on the list of the most LGBT+ friendly countries in Europe with the most LGBT+ inclusive legislation.

This pioneer status, when it comes to LGBT+ rights and equality, has contributed to Denmark being known as a liberal and broad-minded country, especially when it comes to the acceptance of LGBT+ persons.

One may think being an LGBT+ person in Denmark is straightforward - and it is definitely also easier and safer than in many other countries. However, LGBT+ persons in Denmark still experience discrimination and challenges. A study from 2020 shows that one in three LGBT+ persons in Denmark have experienced discrimination based on their LGBT+ identity. This indicates that there are still necessary measures to be taken in order to make Denmark a better place to live as a LGBT+ person. 

What does LGBT+ mean?

LGBT+ is a term for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. The concluding + covers other persons breaking the norms of gender and/or sexual orientation in society.

The right to a legal same-sex partnership and church wedding

One of the most prominent historic victories for the LGBT+ community in Denmark was the legislation of 1989, when Denmark established the right for same-sex couples to enter into Registered Partnerships”.


Poul and Nicolai Cullura, when they got married in 2012. Photo: Mark Thyrring 

On 1 October 1989, Axel and Eigil Axgil were the first same-sex couple in the world to pledge each other love and enter into a registered partnership at Copenhagen City Hall.

Another historic victory was the amendment of the Marriage Act in 2012, which granted same-sex couples in Denmark the right to get married in the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Denmark on equal terms with heterosexual couples.

On 16 June 2012, Poul and Nicolai Cullura were the first same-sex couple to be married in the Danish Evangelical-Lutheran Church.

"For us, marriage is about love between two people, regardless of gender. We want to be accepted as individuals equal to heterosexuals and to get the fantastic experience of getting married in a church and proclaim ourselves a married couple," Poul Cullura recounts.
Poul and Nicolai Cullura today
They are still married today and their marriage is generally met with positivity in Denmark.

"Denmark is one of the most LGBT+ accepting countries in the world. You have the right to be exactly who you are regardless of who you are with. That is something we really appreciate," Poul Cullura says.

Better rights for rainbow families

In recent years, progress has occurred regarding rainbow families in Denmark. For instance, the Danish Parliament passed a law in 2022, which imply that Lesbian couples no longer must prove how their child was conceived. And the female partner of the pregnant woman will automatically become the co-mother and thus legal parent of the child.”

In addition, new rules for parental leave for rainbow families have been passed. From January 2024, the regulations provide for flexible arrangements for LGBT+ families, where up to four parents – the two legal and the two social parents – can share a part of the parental leave.

"I think, Denmark is the first country in the world, where dividing parental leave between families in that way is possible. It is a historic recognition of rainbow families that you can now share the parental leave between more than two parents," says the CEO of LGBT+ Denmark, Susanne Branner Jespersen.

Thriving in Denmark

Leah Serinsky and Ruth Loos are one of the rainbow families who are excited about the Danish parental rules from 2013, where the non-biological mother also becomes a legal parent and thereby gets parental leave. They are lesbians and moved to Copenhagen from New York with their baby son two years ago. Now Leah is pregnant again and is due with the couple's second child.

"It is amazing, that we can both go on maternity leave. That is not an option at all in the USA. We feel very privileged regarding our rights as an LGBT+ family in Denmark," Leah Serinsky says.
Leah Serinsky and Ruth Loos. Photo: Mikal Schlosser
Their reason for moving to Denmark was work-related. However, they have no plans to return to the USA.

"We thrive in Denmark and are met with tolerance among the Danes. The fact, that we are lesbians and live as a rainbow family is not something we think about in our everyday life," Leah Serinsky says.

Ending discrimination and hate-crime

Denmark is known for being an open and free-spirited country. In 2021, the Danish Parliament passed legislation, which strengthened the protection against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics within and outside the labor market.  However, there are still occurrences of hate-crime, hate-speech or discrimination.

"Denmark is a pioneering country when it comes to improvement and strengthening of the legal rights for LGBT+ persons," says Morten Emmerik Wøldike, head of the Danish Institute for Human Rights work with gender and LGBT+. Nonetheless, there are fields where Denmark could do more. Especially, when it comes to hate crimes.

"Even though we have legislation in Denmark prohibiting hate crimes, many LGBT+ persons still experience hate and violence in the street," says Morten Emmerik Wøldike.

The abuse is primarily aimed at transgender persons. For instance, 56 per cent of transgender persons have experienced discrimination based on their gender identity.

A plan of action will promote well-being

To promote the safety and well-being of LGBT+ persons, in August 2022, the Danish Government announced the second national LGBT+ action plan 2022-2025. The plan ensures commitment to act on a broad spectrum of issues by launching 39 specific initiatives that will increase the safety and well-being og LGBT+ persons, and promote equal opportunities regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

One of the initiatives is to ensure the upskilling of relevant staff, organizations and professionals who advise and offers help to LGBT+ persons exposed to intimate partner violence and sexual abuse, e.g. staff at crisis centers, hostels etc.

In addition, funds have been allocated to qualify teachers and pedagogues through supplementary training so they can promote better school well-being for LGBT+ children. The reason being that more than half of all LGBT+ students in the Danish education system experience loneliness and have thoughts of suicide.

Although Denmark it is one of the best countries for LGBT+ persons to live in and visit, Danish civil society organizations and the Danish government continuously work together on improving the living conditions for LGBT+ persons.

Historic victories for LGBT+ persons in Denmark

  • 1933:Homosexuality becomes legal.

  • 1981: Homosexuality is removed from the Danish list of mental disorders-

  • 1987: The law about the prohibition of differential treatment and discrimination because of sexual orientation.

  • 1989: Denmark is the first country in the world to pass a law about same-sex marriage called a “registered partnership”. The law gives homosexuals the right to the same legal frames surrounding their life together as marriage provides.

  • 1999: Denmark is the first country in the world to recognize two legal parents of the same gender.

  • 2006: Lesbians gain the right to insemination at public hospitals on equal terms as other women.

  • 2009: The mother's registered partner gains access to stepchild adoption as early as the birth.

  • 2010: Homosexuals may apply to adopt on equal terms as heterosexuals.

  • 2012: The Marriage Act” is amended for homosexual couples to marry in Denmark on equal terms as heterosexual couples.

  • 2013: Co-mothers going through fertility treatment are no longer obligated to stepchild adopt.

  • 2014: As the first European country, Denmark allows legal sex change only by declaring that you belong to the other gender.

  • 2017: As one of the first countries in the world, Denmark removes being transgender from the list of mental illnesses.

  • 2022: Denmark strengthens the law, which prohibits discrimination, hate crimes and hate speech against LGBT+ persons.

  • 2022: A law makes it easier for transgender persons to change their names to conform to their gender identity.

  • 2022: Maternity leave allows rainbow families with up to four parents to divide the maternity between them.