Oslo Pride is an annual event to celebrate and support diversity, equality and the Norwegian LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender) community. On Saturday 27 June, Oslo Pride held its popular Gay Parade. More than 25,000 people marched through the streets of Oslo. Among them were once again proud gay and heterosexual officers, soldiers and civilian employees in the Norwegian Armed Forces.
The Armed Forces strongly support diversity and equal rights – regardless of skin colour, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
This year, the Armed Forces also had their own information stand in the pride park in Oslo centre. At the stand, visitors could ask questions and talk to personnel in the Armed Forces. Major Svein Erik Vangen has been the initiator for the stand, and he has taken part in the parade for several years.
"I have spent some time to make my chiefs understand why this is important. But most of them are positive when they see what this is all about," Vangen says.
He says it is important that the Norwegian Armed Forces take part in Oslo Pride.
"We must show that we support – and depend on – diversity in all its forms. We did not participate to recruit, but to show our support and show that the Armed Forces want diversity in our organisation."
Vangen, who himself is openly gay, says the 100,000-people crowd along the route cheered when the saw military personnel in the parade.
"The response we received, was overwhelming and fantastic. It exceeded my expectations and confirms my assumptions on how important this is for the Armed Forces' reputation and the population's understanding of defence," says the Major.
For the last five years, the Armed Forces participation in Oslo Pride has been voluntary and largely volunteer-based. Next year, the Armed Forces themselves will organise their presence in the parade and the information stand in the park.