Editor's Note: A previous version of this article misinterpreted the context of Anine Kierulf's quote. This has been updated and Out regrets the error.
Bi, trans, and nonbinary folks in Norway are celebrating a huge win after the country recently expanded its penal code that previously only protected lesbian and gay people from hate speech to include gender identity and all forms of “sexual orientation.”
These amendments to the penal code, which was first passed in 1981, comes at a time when the ultra-liberal country has seen a rise in LGBTQ+ hate crimes.
According to the advocacy group, ILGA-Europe, the bill was approved on its second reading without a vote given that it was already backed by lawmakers on its first reading last week.
The penal code states that those who are guilty of hate speech face a fine or up to a year in jail for private comments, and a maximum of three years in jail for public remarks. Furthermore, those charged with violent crimes that are motivated by a victim’s orientation or gender identity will receive harsher sentences.
The amendments expanded the language of the penal code to outlaw discrimination based on “gender, gender identity or expression” while also changing its original “homosexual orientation” language to “sexual orientation” to include those under the bisexual umbrella.
“I’m very relieved actually, because (the lack of legal protection) has been an eyesore for trans people for many, many years,” Birna Rorslett, vice president of the Association of Transgender People in Norway, told Reuters.
Indeed, Norway has been one of the most progressive countries in Europe when it comes to LGBTQ+ protections and equality. Marriage equality, adoption for same-sex families, and assisted insemination treatments for lesbian couples have been legal since 2009. The country also bans housing and employment discrimination against LGBTQ+ people and allows trans folks to openly serve in the military.
In fact, according to Insider, Norway was the fourth country in the world to allow trans people to openly serve in the military in 1979 (24 years before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that anti-sodomy laws were unconstitutional in 2003’s Lawrence v. Texas).
In 2016, Norway also allowed trans people to legally change gender without a medical diagnosis.
It should be noted that while Norway is one of the most LGBTQ+ inclusive countries on the globe, it still bans queer men from donating blood if they’ve had sex with another man within a 12-month period.
Still, not everyone is happy about the aggressive approach Norway is taking when it comes to LGBTQ+ protections. Some opponents believes the amendments threaten free speech. But as Anine Kierulf, an assistant professor of law at the University of Oslo, explained to Reuters, the statements have to hit a lot of benchmarks to be prosecuted.
"There are a lot of very hateful things you can say about the protected groups," she said. For prosecution comments must be direct attacks against LGBTQ+ people or include language that intentionally dehumanizes them to the public.