Faroe Islands MP refuses to dine with Iceland’s gay prime minister and her partner

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir (Getty Images)

An MP from the Faroe Islands has refused to attend a state banquet held in honour of Icelandic prime minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir’s official visit.

The prime minister of the Faroe Islands, Kaj Leo Johannesen, invited all seven of the Faroe Island’s party leaders to dine with Ms Sigurðardóttir and her wife, Jonina Leonsdottir. However, Jenis av Rana MP, leader of The Centre Party, a Christianity-based conservative party, declined the invitation, reportedly saying it was against his religion and that he wouldn’t “dream of attending such a banquet”.

In a statement on his party’s website, Mr av Rana wrote: “Logmadur [prime minister] has sent all party leaders an invitation to dine with Iceland’s prime minister and her female partner . . . The Centre party will not be represented at the dinner.

“I do not make a habit of going out in the evening unless my wife is also invited. I would much rather stay at home with her. This is not new behaviour, it’s been like this for years. No one should be surprised.”

He also added that he considered the couple’s visit to be a direct provocation to the beliefs of Faroese society.

The incident has sparked controversy in both Iceland and the Faroe Islands. Ossur Skarpheðinsson, Iceland’s foreign minister, publicly condemned Mr av Rana’s comments as “disgraceful”.

The Chairman of the Faroese Republican party, Hogny Hoydal, along with PM Johanneson, stated that Mr av Rana’s views did not represent those of the whole Faroese nation.

The Faroe Islands – an autonomous constituent country within the Kingdom of Denmark – and Iceland have a long-standing cultural relationship, sharing an near-identical language and remarkably similar history.

However, this is not the first time the relationship between the two countries has hit rocky ground: back in 2006, Icelandic MP for Social Democratic Alliance, Rannveig Gudmundsdottir, criticised Faroese parliament for rejecting proposals designed to offer protection against discrimination on the basis of sexuality.

The case received widespread publicity in the Scandinavian press and is today widely credited for the special protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation which are now enshrined in Faroese law.

On his blog, Faroese Christian writer Arni Zachariassen wrote an open letter of apology to PM Sigurðardóttir saying he felt the situation was “saddening and embarrassing”.

Mr Zachariassen wrote: “I know that I speak for the majority of Faroese Christians when I say that you are more than welcome to visit our country and if the occasion arose, you and your wife both would be more than welcome to eat at our tables.”