A new poll reports that a large majority of pastors in the Church of Sweden are open to blessing gay marriages.

The poll, conducted by Sveriges Television (SVT), found that 68 percent out of 1700 pastors responded that they would be willing to officiate at gay marriages performed in churches.

A small minority (21%) disagreed with church sanctioned gay marriages, while 11 percent refused to answer.

Sweden is likely to become the seventh country to legalize gay marriage. A gay marriage bill was introduced in the Riskdag, Sweden's parliament, last week and enjoys wide support.

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.

But a large majority of Swedes (74%) belong to the Lutheran Church of Sweden, creating a separation between civil and church ceremonies. The church has been blessing gay unions since 2007, but has said it would like to reserve the word marriage for heterosexual unions. Church officials plan to consider the issued at a meeting scheduled for next autumn.

Under the timetable set out in the bill gay marriage would become available May 1.

The new legislation calls for Sweden to become the first country in the world to allow gays to marry within a major church.

“There's a very clear majority that is open to this. And having so many pastors on board clearly makes it easier for the Church of Sweden to take such a decision,” said archbishop Anders Wejryd to SVT.