Gay rights pioneer Axel Axgil dies

Axel Axgil, whose struggle for gay rights helped make Denmark the first country to legalise same-sex partnerships, has died at 96.

Axgil died in a hospital in Copenhagen following complications from a fall, Danish gay rights group LGBT Danmark said.

Axgil, born Axel Lundahl-Madsen, was among the founding members of the organisation - one of the oldest gay rights groups in Europe - in 1948.

On 1 October 1989, he and his partner Eigil were among 11 couples to exchange vows as Denmark became the first country to allow gays to enter civil unions, with nearly the same rights as heterosexual couples. Eigil Axgil died in 1995.

Pornography charges

In the 1950s, both were sentenced on pornography charges to short prison terms for running a gay modelling agency that issued pictures of naked men. The men melded their first names into a new surname, Axgil, and used it in a public show of defiance.

Vivi Jelstrup, a spokeswoman for LGBA Danmark, said Axgil in many ways personified the struggle for gay rights in Denmark.

"But Axel Axgil was a modest man who never cast himself as a lonely warrior," Jelstrup said. "He always underscored that there were many involved in the work and that it was a common cause."

Funeral arrangements were not immediately clear. LGBT Danmark said it planned a memorial service for Axgil at the organisation's annual meeting in Aarhus, western Denmark.

(Sapa, October 2011)

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