Axel and Eigil Axgil


Axel Axgil (3 April 1915 – 29 October 2011) and Eigil Axgil (1922 – 22 September 1995) were Danish gay activists and a longtime couple. They were the first gay couple to enter into a registered partnership anywhere in the world following Denmark's legalization of same-sex partnership registration in 1989, a landmark legislation which they were instrumental in bringing about. They adopted the shared surname, Axgil, a combination of their given names, as an expression of their commitment.

Axel, born Axel Lundahl-Madsen, and Eigil, born Eigil Eskildsen, inspired by the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights, together with several friends, founded F-48 or Forbundet af 1948 (The Association of 1948), Denmark's first gay rights organization. By 1951, F-48's membership had grown to 1,339 and there were branches in Sweden and Norway. In 1985, F-48 became the Danish National Association of Gays and Lesbians (Landsforeningen for Bøsser og Lesbiske, Forbundet af 1948 or LBL). The couple launched a magazine, Vennen (The Friend). Axel Axgil spent decades fighting to make Denmark the first country in the world to legalize same-sex partnerships and, after victory in 1989, was the first to enter a union under the new law. Argil, who has died at the age of 96, helped found one of Europe's oldest gay rights organizations in 1948. In the decade that followed, he lost his home and his job because of his activism. In 1955 Mr. Axgil, then known as Axel Lundahl-Madsen, and his partner, Eigil Eskildsen, with whom he had lived since 1950, were convicted on pornography charges and sentenced to short prison terms for running a gay modeling agency that sold pictures of naked men. While in prison, they melded their first names into the shared surname Axgil as a public show of defiance.

Axel and Eigil Axgil later ran a resort hotel that catered to a predominantly gay clientele. Axgil personified the country's struggle for gay rights, but "was a modest man who never cast himself as a lonely warrior," a spokeswoman for the organization he co-founded says. "He always underscored that there were many involved in the work and that it was a common cause." His partner of more than 40 years, Eigil Axgil, died in 1995.

In 1989, Denmark became the first nation in the world to recognize domestic partnerships for same-sex couples. On October 1, 1989, the Axgils and 10 other Danish couples were married by Tom Ahlberg, the deputy mayor of Copenhagen, in the city hall, accompanied by worldwide media attention. The Axgils had been a couple for 40 years.