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First annual Icelandic Humanist of the Year Award

On Friday October 21st, 2005 Sidmennt, the Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association presented Samtökin ’78 – The Association of Lesbians and Gay Men in Iceland with its Humanist of the Year Award for their work in gaining human rights for gays and bisexuals in Iceland. This is the first time Sidmennt has presented such an award which will become an annual event.

The presentation was made during a simple ceremony in a downtown Reykjavik restaurant and conference center where a framed certificate was given to the chairperson of Samtokin 78 along with the book “Before Stonewall” by Vern Bullough, for the Samtokin 78 library and a 3 year subscription to the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) magazine. GALHA sent a framed congratulatory certificate which was presented along with a copy of their 25th anniversary issue of Gay and Lesbian Humanist which read as follows: “Congratulations! The Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association is proud to notify Samtokin 78 that you have been given a three year subscription to our quarterly magazine Gay and Lesbian Humanist. This is a gift from Sidmennt, the Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association as part of the Humanist of the Year Award to your organization for outstanding work in creating greater tolerance and increasing human rights in Icelandic society over the past 25 years.”

In her presentation speech, Hope Knutsson, president of Sidmennt said that Samtokin 78’s struggle for human rights has been characterized by moderation, and undaunting determination. Samtokin 78 was established in 1978 by a group of courageous leaders whose aim was to change Icelandic society’s attitude towards gays and lesbians. Until that time most gays and lesbians moved abroad to live in more tolerant societies. The organisation’s leaders were undaunted despite the incredible amount of prejudice that existed towards gays in Iceland until the early 1970’s. Samtokin 78 has conducted its struggle without resorting to any radical hullabaloo. Moderation was shown in its clearly stated aim of making gays and lesbians more visible and accepted in Icelandic society and achieving full human rights. They never strayed from their goals despite encountering barriers and prejudice high and low. We in Sidmennt feel that Samtokin 78 has done more to create a broad-minded and tolerant society in Iceland than any other person or group in the last 25 years. You have shown the public that it is all right to be different, that it enriches society to have people with different gender orientations and views on life. We look up to you as a shining example of what a human rights organisation can be.

Hope further explained that there is a long tradition of Humanist associations all around the world supporting the gay rights struggle because Humanists have always emphasized tolerance and believed that adults should have complete freedom of choice regarding gender orientation, among many other things. Humanists everywhere have stood side by side with gays, lesbians, and bisexuals unconditionally and unequivocally in struggling for equal rights for all human beings.

A reception was held for all those who attended the event after the speeches and presentations were made. Press releases were sent to all the media in Iceland and reporters/photographers from several newspapers attended the event. Articles and photos appeared in web and paper versions of some newspapers and a radio interview with representatives from both organisations followed.

Hope Knutsson, president of Sidmennt

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