Santa Ynez LGBTQ Group Invited to Copenhagen to Meet Mayor, Lead Pride Parade

This story was originally published by the Santa Barbara Independent and is reproduced here in partnership with Edhat.

By Tyler Hayden of The Independent

Members of Santa Ynez Valley Pride just returned from a whirlwind trip to Copenhagen, where, at the personal invitation of Lord Mayor Sophie Hæstorp Andersen, they received a private tour of City Hall, marched at the head of a six-mile parade, and spoke in front of a crowd of roughly 100,000 during Copenhagen Pride Week, one of the largest LGBTQ festivals in the world.

“It was incredible,” said SYV Pride president Lauren Lastra. “They were just so generous and welcoming. It felt like a full circle moment.”

SYV Pride marches at the front of the parade | Credit: SYV Pride

Mayor Andersen said later on Instagram: “Today the delegation from Solvang felt the support from everyone in Copenhagen Pride. … I will always fight for equality and the right to love whoever you want.”

It was this spring that Solvang ― a 6,000-resident Santa Barbara County town that markets itself as “the Danish capital of America” ― drew the ire of Andersen and her historically LGBTQ-friendly countryfolk when Solvang rejected a request to hang rainbow banners in celebration of Pride Month. 

The decision came not long after pride flags were stolen from a nearby church and burned, and rainbow-colored crosswalks were erased from the local high school. One of Solvang’s city council members referred to the town’s LGBTQ residents and their supporters as “clowns” and “losers.”

After widespread backlash and a tersely-worded letter from Anderson, who said Solvang’s opposition to the banners was antithetical to its Danish heritage of “respect and acceptance,” the town reversed course and approved them.

Lastra said the invitation from Anderson’s office to not only participate but feature prominently in Copenhagen Pride came mere weeks ago and was “very unexpected.” Nevertheless, she said, SYV Pride knew “it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.”

The parade was of “epic proportions,” said Lastra, director of student services at Pacifica Graduate Institute. And while it dwarfed Solvang’s own annual celebration, the two events did share some similarities. “They were both super family-friendly, with kiddos on parents shoulders waving flags,” she said. “It was heartwarming.”

During SYV Pride’s public address they shared the stage with Stuart Milk, nephew of Harvey Milk and cofounder of the Harvey Milk Foundation, and they received an enthusiastic welcome from the crowd, Lastra said. “The energy was epic.” Her group saw only one protester that day, “perched on a little bucket reading Bible verses,” she said.

Members of SYV Pride tour Copenhagen City Hall | Credit: SYV Pride

The Danes they spoke to about the Solvang banners had a hard time understanding the controversy, Lastra said. They didn’t get how attitudes against LGBTQ people could exist in a liberal American state like California, and especially in a community with such deep Danish roots. “It just didn’t compute” Lastra said.

SYV Pride attended a party at the New Zealand consulate where they rubbed elbows with ambassadors, and their hotel overlooked Copenhagen’s central plaza and its seemingly nonstop events. There were early talks with the city’s main LGBTQ organization about unifying its and Solvang’s yearly celebrations as “sister” events, Lastra said.

Lastra noticed how many blocks of Copenhagen were wrapped in rainbow in celebration of Pride Week. Anderson said the show of support was “good for the whole community,” including its tourism economy.

The entire experience was unforgettable, Lastra said. “It was so unexpected and so amazing,” she said.


Written by Tyler Hayden

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  1. What a great experience and opportunity to feel truly accepted. It’s embarrassing for Solvang to be scolded and then shown what a real Danes are like. It always seemed strange to me to have such a “European” town nestled in such an intolerant and notoriously anti-anything not American area of our county.

  2. Last I checked, Solvang is a town that celebrates tourism. It’s against their own interests to discriminate against any tourists. Those with visceral anti-gay reactions might want to do a bit of self-examination.
    What a beautiful heart the mayor of Copenhagen has. Let’s honor her by restoring the rainbow crosswalks at the high school.

  3. It’s baffling and sad that there still isn’t acceptance of LGBTQ+ people in 2023, and we need to continuously review basic human, CHRISTIAN dignity with the mean-spirited morons in the back of the class. Yet I can’t help but have a bit of schadenfreude watching them step in it (yet again) and have their bigotry backfire so spectacularly.

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