Opposition to naming square after gay activist

City Council moves to name new square after Axel Axgil, the first gay man to ever enter into a civil union, but opponents say the name is too hard to pronounce

The decision to name a newly-renovated square near the City Hall after Denmark’s most prominent gay rights activists is facing opposition.

Axel Axgil founded the Danish gay rights organisation, now called LGBT Danmark, and was part of the first ever civil union in 1989. He died in 2011 aged 96.

Following the renovation of the square, which was formerly a parking lot, the city’s technical and environmental administration department proposed naming the square Axel Axgil Plads, a move the City Council was expected to approve today.

“Axel Axgil did a lot to promote homosexual rights and equality,” the city's deputy mayor for technical and environmental affairs, Ayfer Baykal (Socialistisk Folkeparti), told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “As a result, he helped Danes become more open-minded. That’s why I think he deserves to have a square named after him even if it is a little hard to pronounce.”

Baykal was referring to one of the key criticisms levelled against renaming the square after Axgil. The City Council has so far received 32 resident responses concerning the proposed name change and almost all have been negative.

Some local business owners are upset that they will be losing their prestigious RÃ¥dhuspladsen address (Open Street Map)“Foreigners who want to ask directions to the square will have a hard time pronouncing it and the person they are asking will have a hard time understanding what is being asked,” Henrik Borberg, the managing director of the publisher Forlaget Multivers, wrote in a letter to the council.

The square used to technically belong to the square outside of City Hall, Rådhuspladsen, a sought-after and expensive address. With the name change, however, buildings on the square will lose this distinguished address, much to the disappointment of advertising agency Baron & Company.

“We pay to live at one of the city’s most expensive addresses with all its added values,” the agency's CEO, Søren Baron Rom, told Jyllands-Posten. “It’s a conscious decision we have made and it has a vital importance to our advertising agency.”

Council member Jacob Næsager (Konservative) is also not happy about the decision to name the square after Axgil.

“It shouldn’t be named after just anyone,” Næsager told Politiken newspaper. “That is why I cannot support a proposal from the mayor for technical and environmental affairs to rename an area of Rådhuspladsen after an old gay activist.”

He added that the city’s squares ought to be named after their function or historical context and urged the City Council to instead name the square after Nikolaj Grundtvig, who was a priest at the nearby Vartov Church between 1839 and 1872.

“Grundtvig has had a great influence on Danish thinking, democracy, poetry and literature,” Næsager said.

But the current chairman of LGBT Danmark, Vivi Jelstrup, argues that Axgil also had a profound impact on Denmark and the rest of the world.

“He will be the first open homosexual that we have named anything after, and it would be a strong statement,” Jelstrup told Politiken.

Jestrup added that the photos of Axgil and his partner Eigil, after they completed their ceremony in 1989, were published around the world, and Axgil also inspired Norway and Sweden to establish their own LGBT organisations.

“It’s because of his efforts that we are where we are today: a Denmark with an inclusive politics regarding sexual orientation and gender identity,” Jelstrup said.