A gay marriage bill introduced
Wednesday in Sweden's parliament enjoys broad support and is likely
to pass, making Sweden the seventh country to grant gays and lesbians
the right to marry.
The legislation aims to repeal a 1987
law defining marriage as a heterosexual union. A recent poll found
that nearly three-fourths of Swedes (71%) approve of gay marriage.
Lawmakers in Sweden approved civil
unions for gay couples in 1995. The law offers gay and lesbians the
same legal status as married heterosexual couples, including the
right to adopt.
Gay marriage in Sweden has remained in
a holding pattern for years because two of the country's four major
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.
While the proposed law would allow for
pastors to opt out of performing gay wedding ceremonies, and the
Lutheran Church has been blessing gay unions since 2007, the
Christian Democrats and the Church say they would like to reserve the
word “marriage” for heterosexual unions.
“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 in
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.
“The main proposal in the motion is
that ... a person's gender will no longer have any bearing on whether
they can marry,” Reinfeldt said in a statement. “The marriage
law and other laws concerning spouses will be rendered gender neutral
according to the proposal.”
Under the timetable set out in the bill
gay marriage would become available May 1.
The new legislation would make Sweden
the first country in the world to allow gays to marry within a major
church. Seventy-four percent of Swedes belong to the Lutheran