Swedish lawmakers have approved a gay
marriage bill, making it the seventh country to grant gay and lesbian
couples the right to marry.
The Swedish news agency TT is reporting
that the measure was approved in the Swedish Parliament by a 261 to
22 vote, with 66 lawmakers abstaining or absent.
The legislation repeals a 1987 law
defining marriage as a heterosexual union. A recent poll found that
nearly three-fourths of Swedes (71%) approve of gay marriage. The
law takes effect May 1.
Sweden has recognized civil unions for
gay and lesbian couples since 1995. The union offered gay couples
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.
Gay marriage is legal in six other
countries including Spain, South Africa, Norway, the Netherlands,
Canada and Belgium. Two U.S. states – Connecticut and
Massachusetts – currently offer gay nuptials.