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Iceland's First Lesbian Prime Minister

America isn’t the only country having economic difficulties. Iceland is having severe economic problems and, as a result, Prime Minister Geir Haarde, announced his resignation on January 26, 2009. The banking system collapsed due to massive debts acquired during a time of rapid expansion. The country’s currency is weak, its unemployment and inflation rates very high and increasing.

Johanna Sigurdardottir is expected to be appointed Interim Prime Minister by the end of January 2009. Sigurdardottir will not be the first openly gay Prime Minister of any country, though she will be first in Iceland. Per-Kristian Foss beat her to it in 2002 as interim Prime Minister of Norway.

Sigurdardottir will be Iceland’s first female prime minister and Iceland’s first openly gay government head. She will serve until an election is held, which could be as early as March.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Environment Minister Thorunn Sveinbjarnardottir said of Sigurdardottir, “She is a senior parliamentarian, she is respected and loved by all of Iceland.”

Many Icelandic politicians have extensive family connections and wealth to pave their way to power. Unlike them, Sigurdardottir started her career as an office worker and has also been a stewardess. She has been a member of the Icelandic Althingi (Parliament) since 1978. She has been Minister of Social Affairs twice, first from 1987 until 1994, then again in 2007. According to a recent Gallup poll, 73% of Icelanders were very satisfied with how she was doing as Minister of Social Affairs.

Her career has not been defined by being a lesbian. Sigurdardottir has a reputation for paying attention to the needs of every day citizens. According to the Iceland Ministry of Social Affairs website, Sigurdardottir began her public service career in 1978, by being a member of Althingi representing Reykyavik, a position she still holds. In 1979, 1983-1984 and 2003-2007, she was a member of Althingis’ Presidium. She has also served on the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Committee on Industry, Althingi’s Special Committee on Constitutional Affairs, Committee on General Affairs, Committee on Economy and Trade, Committee on Credentials and the Committee of Social Affairs. In addition, she was part of the Icelandic Delegation to the Inter-Parliamentary Union from 1996-2003 and part of the Icelandic Delegation to the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) Parliamentary Assembly from 2003-2007.

Bloggers ranging from the Huffington Post to individuals are writing about Sigurdardottir’s appointment and how only in the United States is it important the she’s a lesbian.

In 2002, Sigurdardottir married her long time partner, Jonia Leosdottir. Sigurdardottir has two adult children.

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