Iceland Prime Minister Johanna
Sigurdardottir was among the first gay couples to marry Sunday as the
country's new gay marriage law came into force, the Iceland
broadcaster RUV reported.
The gay marriage bill, introduced on
March 23, was approved by 49 out of 63 members of the Althingi
parliament on June 12. The remainder abstained, making the vote
The legislation is groundbreaking in
that it does not alter marriage to a gender-neutral institution, but
instead includes “man and man” and “woman and woman” among
the definitions of marriage.
Marriage replaces Iceland's system of
registered partnerships for gay and lesbian couples first enacted in
Sigurdardottir, 68, entered into a
registered partnership with writer-playwright Jonina Leosdottir in
2002. The pair applied to have their partnership converted to a
marriage on Sunday, the first day the legislation took effect.
The law grants gay and lesbian couples
all the benefits and obligations of marriage, including adoption.
Opposition to the bill was muted in the
only nation headed by an openly lesbian prime minister.
“The attitude in Iceland is fairly
pragmatic,” Gunnar Helgi Kristinsson, a political scientist at the
University of Iceland, told Reuters. “It [gay marriage] has not
been a big issue in national politics – it's not been
Sigurdardottir took over the reins of
Iceland's government last year when voters overwhelmingly rejected
the conservative Independent Party as the tiny island nation (pop.
320,000) faced a financial meltdown.
Sigurdardottir has two adult sons from
a previous marriage.
Iceland joins six European countries –
Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Norway, Sweden and most recently
Portugal – in legalizing gay marriage.
Lawmakers in Argentina
are also debating the issue.