Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Born Today In 1915, LGBTQ Rights Pioneer Axel Axgil

Axel and Eigil Axgil
Axel Axgil was born today, April 3, in 1915. He was a Danish gay activist and with Eigil Axgil, was half of one of the first gay couples to enter into a registered partnership anywhere in the world. This was following Denmark's legalisation of same-sex partnership registration in 1989, a landmark legislation which the Axgil's were instrumental in bringing about. They adopted the shared surname, Axgil, a combination of their given names, (Axel and Eigil) as an expression of their commitment.

Axel was born Axel Lundahl-Madsen 
came out in 1948 after meeting Eigil. The next day he lost his job. Inspired by the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights that included sexual orientation, he and Eigil, with several friends, founded F-48 or Forbundet af 1948 (The Association of 1948), Denmark's first gay rights organization. By 1951, F-48's membership had grown to 1,339 and there were branches in Sweden and Norway. In 1985, F-48 became the Danish National Association of Gays and Lesbians (Landsforeningen for Bøsser og Lesbiske, Forbundet af 1948 or LBL). The couple launched a magazine, Vennen (The Friend).

The investigation into Vennen led to a scandal and arrests of gay men. In the 1950s, both were sentenced on pornography charges to short prison terms for running a gay modeling agency that issued pictures of naked men. After his release from prison, Axgil founded the International Homosexual World Organization (IHWO). In 1970, IHWO successfully appealed to the German Federal Chancellor, who discontinued the seizure of nude male photographs.

In 1989, Denmark became the first nation in the world to recognize registered partnerships for same-sex couples, nearly equal to (opposite-sex) marriage. On October 1, 1989, the Axgils and 10 other Danish couples were married by Tom Ahlberg, the deputy mayor of Copenhagen, in the city hall, accompanied by worldwide media attention. The Axgils had been a couple for 40 years. 

Axgil continued his activism and ran a gay-friendly bed and breakfast until Eigil’s death in 1995. In 2012, as a result of the groundwork laid by Axgil, Denmark legalized same-sex marriage. In 2013, Axel Axgil was named by Equality Forum as one of their 31 Icons of the LGBT History Month.

Axel Axgil died on October 29, 2011, at the age of 96.

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