To the Danish, something is rotten in the United States. More specifically, the Danes are unhappy with the anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment put forth by the city council of California’s “Danish capital,” Solvang.
One would be forgiven if one mistook a photo from Solvang as a postcard from Copenhagen. The town has all the similarities to the Scandinavian country. But where Danes have the term “hygge,” which lacks an English translation but roughly means to enjoy warmth, togetherness, and coziness with others, the residents of Solvang have discord.
The visibility of LGBTQ+ people has been a hot topic in Solvang, a town of 6,000 people, the Los Angeles Timesreported earlier this month.
Supporters and critics of a plan to hang banners with pride-themed messages downtown say they have been threatened with death due to the City Council’s initial rejection of the proposal.
The men who proposed the banners, a couple of husbands, were harassed online and called groomers and pedophiles. Several people even posted the names and photos of their four young kids online.
The Santa Ynez Valley Pride parade was unanimously supported by the City Council last June.
On the part of organizers, some pushback was anticipated but never materialized. So instead, Copenhagen Drive was filled with rainbow-colored floats as they glided effortlessly down the street.
There is, however, pushback this year.
Councilman Robert Clarke has made some of the most disparaging comments.
As he wrote in now-public text messages, he called his critics “Chardonnay antifa” and said Gays Against Groomers would receive $10 for its efforts to protest drag queens “for every butt hurt person” who complained about the decision at a recent city council meeting.
As the situation escalated, Copenhagen’s mayor stepped in and reprimanded the U.S. town for bragging about its Danish heritage while ignoring its LGBTQ+ population.
As the U.S. culture wars rage, the uproar in Solvang occurs at a time when LGBTQ+ rights are at the forefront.
Copenhagen’s chief executive, Lord Mayor Sophie Hæstorp Andersen, addressed Solvang’s mayor in an open letter.
“Your city’s status as ‘the Danish capital of America’ is something that you rightly cherish. Your heritage… create[s] a strong bond between us,” she wrote. “Copenhagen and Denmark also have a proud tradition of acceptance and inclusion of LGBTI+ people.”
She continued, “You’ll know already of Denmark’s longstanding position as one of the most progressive countries in the world.”
According to the 2023 World Happiness Report, Denmark comes in as the second most happy place on Earth.
It has been a tradition for the LGBTQ+ community to hold events in Copenhagen since the 1970s, and Copenhagen Pride has been held annually since 1996. Two years ago, in 2021, WorldPride was held in Copenhagen, she noted.
“It is against this background that I was surprised to read about the opposition from some of your council members to ideas put forward by your LGBTI+ community for Solvang to embrace Santa Ynez Valley Pride publicly and visibly,” Andersen continued. “This opposition to Pride does not reflect the genuine warmth and acceptance of Pride that can be seen across Denmark and especially in Copenhagen.”
She concluded, “In the spirit of friendship between our cities, I urge you to give Santa Ynez Valley Pride and your local LGBTI+ community the full support of your City Council, in the same way that the Municipality of Copenhagen wholeheartedly supports Copenhagen Pride for the benefit of all Copenhageners, and to show the world that respect and acceptance are vital elements in a modern, welcoming society.”
As Andersen explained to the Times, “I was informed that the local opposition to put up Pride flags around town was justified with regard to Danish values and traditions. That’s why I think it was incredibly important to kindly make aware that these are not values we can answer for in Copenhagen.”
The city ended up approving an amended proposal to fly rainbow banners to celebrate Pride Month. However, instead of the banners flying all of June, they will for only two weeks. Also, there will be no rainbow crosswalks designed — something that was in the initial plans.
Solvang local Elizabeth Walther, who said she is part of the LGBTQ+, told the city council, “My family is not political. Our existence is not political,” according to the Santa Barbara Independent.
“Pride is the opposite of shame,” Mary Beth Lee, a native of Solvang, said in the hearing that approved the banners. “And the LGBTQ people have endured a history of shaming and marginalization for who they are and who they love.”
Lee added: “And if you can’t understand that, you’re just ignorant.”