After a backlash for declaring the military exists to defend gay rights, Sweden’s army has promised to “never give up” promoting its support for LGBT issues.
“Our task is to defend your right to live with whoever you want, as whoever you want, and in any way that you want, and we will go to any lengths to do it,” Sweden’s army proclaimed through its Facebook page on Monday, marking the start of LGBT Pride week.
The armed forces are “prepared to go to any lengths” in its duty to “work to uphold justice and equality, and for the recognition that everyone is of equal value,” added the post, which is attached to a picture of military boots adorned with rainbow coloured laces.
Not everyone was happy with the message, however, as it was quickly met with replies suggesting that the army’s job should be defending Sweden rather than promoting so-called “values”, with one Facebook user asking: “Are you so lost in the rainbow mist that you’ve forgotten you’re supposed to be warriors?”
Invoking the current year in one response to detractors, the army said: “It is important that the armed forces take a stand, and show that we stand up for the equal value of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender identity.
“The year is 2017, but there still seem to be many people for whom this fact is not obvious, and that’s why we must demonstrate that the Swedish army is committed to the issue.”
Facebook user Frederik Nielsen said workplaces “should be neutral, and not put cultural or political pressure on employees,” asserting in his post: “As Sweden’s armed forces, you’re not supposed to be culture-shapers or politicians.
“Swedes have absolutely nothing against other people’s way of life, but it is distasteful to impose their propaganda in our workplaces.”
“We are not here to defend principles and ideas,” wrote Joakim Nilsson, slamming the army’s post as “nonsense”.
“We defend those who are citizens of Sweden along with the land we possess, our seas and lakes, and the fields that my ancestors cultivated and harvested,” he wrote.
Johan Walterström used the social networking site to express confusion over “why the armed forces are spending money on various marketing activities that are in no way making us more dangerous to our enemies.
“Because that should always be the main task. There are other bodies which have the job of disseminating information to influence people’s thoughts,” he wrote.
Not everyone was sceptical, however, with many replies to the original post communicating support for the Swedish army’s commitment to LGBT issues.
In one comment, Kerstin Borg dismissed suggestions that there could be more useful activities for the army to involve itself in than the promotion of gay rights, arguing: “A defence force which has more tolerant personnel is one that is definitely more resistant to opinion influencing campaigns by foreign powers.
“It also lessens the risk of internal strife, in which people who do not accept democracy, freedom and human rights would show disloyalty in different ways,” she added.
Responding to the backlash, army personnel director Klas Eksell said he was unsurprised by the raft of negative reactions that the post inspired.
“Unfortunately, like last year we see that we get such responses when during LGBT Pride, we communicate our position on the event,” Expressen reported him as saying.
Announcing that the army will not “give up” as a result of public pressure, Eksell stated that the forces “participate in Stockholm’s Pride week, and also in local Pride events all over the country.
“For many years we have also participated in ‘Pride Park’, where we have held a stand with information about the Armed Forces.”
“We must work to reflect the society we have the task of protecting,” added the human resources chief.
Eksell’s view of the role of a nation’s army is in stark contrast to those of U.S. President Donald J. Trump — who recently announced that transgender individuals would be barred from military service — according to White House aide Dr. Sebastian Gorka.
In an interview on Friday, he told the BBC that the president’s decision came “out of the warmth of his consideration for this population,” adding: “The military is not a microcosm of civilian society.
“They are not there to reflect America. They are there to kill people and blow stuff up. They are not there to be socially engineered.”