Danish LGBT pioneer Axel Axgil dies
 

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posted Friday, November 4, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 44

Danish LGBT pioneer Axel Axgil dies
by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Danish LGBT rights activist Axel Axgil died October 29. He was 96.

Born Axel Lundahl-Madsen, he and his partner, Eigil Eskildsen adopted a new surname, Axgil, to symbolize their relationship.

They had already been together over 40 years when formal recognition for their relationship finally came on October 1, 1989, when Copenhagen's deputy mayor Tom Ahlberg officiated at a civil union ceremony for the Axgils and 10 other couples.

In 1948, when Axel and Eigil were newly dating, they founded Forbundet af 1948 (The Association of 1948), Denmark's first Gay rights organization, with several friends.

They later said they were inspired by the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, then a new and groundbreaking document.

By 1951, F-48's membership had grown to 1,339 and there were branches in Sweden and Norway. In 1985, F-48 became Landsforeningen for Bøsser og Lesbiske, Forbundet af 1948 (the Danish National Association of Gays and Lesbians) or LBL.

The couple also launched a magazine, Vennen (The Friend).

In the 1950s, Axel and Eigil were convicted on pornography charges and sentenced to short prison terms for running a Gay modeling agency that published pictures of naked men.

It was then that the couple combined their first names into a new surname and used it in a public show of defiance.

Later, the two men ran a resort hotel that catered to a predominantly Gay clientele.

In 1989, after years of lobbying by the Axgils and other advocates, Denmark became the first country in the world to allow same-sex civil unions. The Axgils were the first of 11 couples - all men - to be legally united when the law took effect in 1989.

Eigil Axgil died in 1995.

British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell credits Axel, who was then in his 70s, with helping him track down and expose Danish Nazi war criminal Dr. Carl Vaernet, who experimented on Gay prisoners in Buchenwald.

'Axel Axgil deserves great admiration from all LGBT people,' Tatchell wrote. 'Danes and humanitarians. A true hero. I salute him. He will live on through his extraordinary contribution to LGBT human rights. I feel very fortunate to have worked with him.'

Vivi Jelstrup, a spokeswoman for LGBT Danmark, said Axgil in many ways personified the struggle for Gay rights in Denmark.

'Axel Axgil was a modest man who never cast himself as a lonely warrior,' Jelstrup said. 'He always underscored that there were many involved in the work and that it was a common cause.'

LGBT Danmark said it planned a memorial service for Axgil at the organization's annual meeting on November 5.



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