Sexual orientation is a protected class
in the Swedish Constitution, yet the country defined marriage as
between one man and one woman in 1987, making gay marriage illegal.
But legislation to be introduced shortly seeks to make Sweden the
seventh country to legalize gay marriage, reports AFP.
“Sweden could have a gender neutral
marriage law by May 1, 2009,” Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt told
Swedish Radio on November 5.
Gay couples have had the right to
register in a civil union since 1995. The union offers gays and
lesbians the same legal status as married heterosexual couples,
including the right to adopt.
But in Sweden 74% of couples marry in a
church ceremony, which legally weds the couple. And the Lutheran
Church, which has been blessing gay unions in a separate ceremony
since 2007, has said it would like to reserve the name marriage for
A majority of Swedes are members of the
Lutheran Church (74% in 2007).
Opposing the law are the Christian
Democrats who agree with the Lutheran Church. However, supporters of
gay marriage say they have the votes needed for passage.
Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, the
Moderate Party leader, is a strong supporter of gay and lesbian
rights, voting for civil unions in 1994 when his Party disagreed.
And Sweden remains a fairly liberal country with nearly three-fourths
of Swedes approving of gay marriage (71%).
Gay marriage in Sweden has remained in
a holding pattern for years because two of the country's four
political parties opposed it. But an October 2007 Moderate Party
endorsement broke that stalemate, leaving only the Christian
Democrats opposed to the legalization of gay marriage. The
legislation does allow for pastors to opt out of performing gay
The Christian Democrats said the turn
of events left them disappointed.
“My position is that I have been
tasked by the Party to argue that marriage is for men and women,”
Christian Democrat Leader Goran Hagglund told Swedish Radio.
“The coalition government has agreed
that we will present a basic marriage bill to parliament,”
Reinfeldt said. “The three parties in favor of a gender neutral
marriage law will then present an accompanying motion seeking to have
a law in place by May 1, 2009.”
If passed, Sweden would become the
seventh country to legalize gay marriage and the Swedish Lutheran Church may become one of the
first churches to allow gay marriage.