Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Born Today in 1922, LGBTQ Rights Pioneer Eigil Axgil

Axel and Eigil Axgil
Eigil Axgil was born today, April 24, in 1922. He was a Danish gay activist and with Axel 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 legalization of same-sex partnership registration in 1989, a landmark legislation that the Axgils 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.

Eigil was born Eigil Eskildsen and came out in 1948 after meeting Axel. Inspired by the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights that included sexual orientation, Eigil and Axel, 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 Eigil and Axel were sentenced on pornography charges to short prison terms for running a gay modeling agency that issued pictures of naked men. After their release from prison, the Axgils 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. 

Eigil died on September 22, 1995, at the age of 73. Axel died on October 29, 2011, at the age of 96.

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