Sweden became the 7th country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. The Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Spain, Canada, and South Africa also allow same-sex marriage. (Civil unions are allowed in more countries.) The new law will take effect on 1 May 2009.
Radio Sweden International (via ILGA Europe): Following a parliamentary vote Wednesday afternoon, MPs voted by a huge majority to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry in civil ceremonies. If they want to get married in a church, however, then they will have to find a vicar who will agree to marry them.
Same-sex couples have been able to become civil partners in Sweden since 1995, and the law change doesn’t automatically make them husband and husband or wife and wife, if they want to get married they will have to either have a new ceremony, or send in an application to get the partnership converted into a marriage.
The government was split on the issue with coalition partner the Christian Democrats the only party in the Swedish parliament to oppose the extension of the term ”marriage” to include non-heterosexuals. But in a free vote in parliament 261 MPs voted in favour of the reform, 22 voted no, while 16 abstained.
Religious groups in Sweden are split on the issue. Some Lutheran Church of Sweden vicars have said they will marry same-sex couples, and the church will take a common stand on the issue at a Synod in the Autumn. Roman Catholic, Muslim, and other religions have been much more sceptical to the law change in their comments.