Swedish parliament takes steps towards gay marriages

March 03, 2004

STOCKHOLM — The Swedish parliament's laws committee is considering three motions that would pave the way for gay marriages, replacing a current law on same-sex civil unions that already gives gays the same rights as married couples, officials said Tuesday.

Gay couples in Sweden have since 1995 enjoyed the same rights as heterosexual couples. While the public commonly refers to gay unions as "marriages", they are in the eyes of the law officially called "partnerships".

The three motions currently under consideration all propose a change in the marriage law to make it "gender neutral", eliminating the last distinction between the two kinds of unions after gays were in February 2003 granted the right to adopt children, Marianne Mostroem, a spokeswoman for the parliament, told AFP.

"The laws committee began its work today. A first review is to be submitted on March 9, and the debate in parliament is scheduled for April 28," she said.

Sweden's gay community has long fought for the right to call their civil unions "real" marriages.

"We are convinced that many people think that the time has come for one law that defines a deep relationship between two individuals and that this is important regardless of the gender of the people," the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) said.

Among the political parties represented in parliament, the Greens, the formerly communist Left party, the Liberals and the Center – which together hold 117 of 349 seats in parliament – have said they are in favour of a gender-neutral marriage law.

The governing Social Democrats, who hold 144 seats, have yet to take an official stand on the issue, but two of the three motions submitted are signed by seven of their MPs.

The conservative Moderate party, with 55 seats, has also yet to take a stand.

Meanwhile, the Christian Democrats, who hold 33 seats, are vehemently opposed to a new law. A fourth motion submitted by two Christian Democratic MPs and one Moderate MP calls for the marriage law to be amended to stipulate that marriage is a union "between a man and a woman – for the sake of children".

According to a poll published on Monday, 61 percent of Swedes are in favour of gay marriage, compard to 30 percent who are opposed to the idea. – Sapa-AFP

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Most Swedes favor legalising gay marriage: poll [02/03/2004]



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