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Same-sex marriages (SSM)

Legalization of SSM in Sweden

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Since 1995, Sweden has recognized same-sex relationships by permitting loving committed couples to enter into civil unions. That granted them the same legal status as married couples. They were allowed to adopt children starting in 2002. Since 2007-JAN, Sweden's  principal church -- the Lutheran Church of Sweden -- has blessed these civil unions. However, government registration or recognition of marriages, and church blessing of marriages were not permitted.

The government had originally planned to introduce a new "gender neutral" marriage act that would provide marriage equality by 2008-JAN. Both same-sex and opposite-sex couples would then be permitted to marry.

This law would have made Sweden the seventh jurisdiction to legalize SSM within its borders.

The process of introducing enabling legislation was delayed until 2008-NOV. Loving, committed same-sex couples in Sweden now have access to marriage.

Events, 2005 to now:

bullet 2005: Civil unions became available to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. However, under the current law, which was passed in 1987, only opposite sex couples were permitted to marry.

bullet 2006-AUG: The former government, headed by the Social Democratic party, had created an independent committee to study SSM. The committee described the civil union law as outdated; they recommended that the government permit SSM. 1

bullet 2006-DEC-24: An Angus Reid poll conducted in eight EU countries showed that SSM was supported by 82% of Dutch adults, 71% of Swedes, 69% of Danes, 58% of Luxembourgers and 56% of Spaniards. German and Czech adults voted 52% each. Minorities supported SSM in other EU countries, including 15% in Greece and Bulgaria, 14% in Cyprus, 12% in Latvia, and 11% in Romania. margin of error is ~+mn~3.1 percentage points. 2

bullet 2007-MAR-16: Almost 80% of Swedes belong to the Church of Sweden. The church leadership said that they agree with the concept of marriage equality and are willing to marry both same-sex and opposite sex couples in church. Bishop Claes-Bertil Ytterberg of the church's Västerås diocese said: "We are prepared to carry out partnerships for homosexuals that have the force of law."

Ytterberg, representing the church's governing body, said it was important that the church's position be clear. He said:

"It is important that the Church of Sweden can be ecumenically weighty by being one step ahead and showing potential pathways. We are first in this context.

However, he said that the church will restrict the term "äktenskap" (marriage) to refer to marriages between a man and a woman. He said:

"The word 'marriage' is so closely linked by tradition to the relationship between a man and a woman"

He said he would like the marriage laws to be renamed 'cohabitation laws'. 4

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bullet 2007-MAR-21: The independent committee released their final report, recommending that the country adopt a gender neutral marriage act.

The Lutheran Church want pastors to be free to choose whether or not to perform a SSM ceremony. Church spokesperson Annika Sjoeqvist Platzer, referring to the report, said: "There will be an answer from the Church during the late autumn." 3
bullet 2007-JUN: Arne Wikstroem pastor of the Oscars parish in central Stockholm said:

"If today we are blessing homosexuals, I see no reason not to celebrate gay marriages. I think all people are equal before God. And no man is unholy or unblessed. We are all equal and all need God's blessings in our lives. ... If God has created people as homosexuals, we must accept them and we must bless them.

Meanwhile, Lutheran pastors report that requests to bless same-sex unions have largely dried up. Apparently most same-sex couples are waiting until they see if a new marriage act will make them eligible for SSM.

Soeren Andersson of the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights said:

"I think it would be great if the Swedish law passed. In changing the law everybody could be equal in the eyes of the law. ... It's a kind of a revolution in a way. Because when you look at the big Swedish Church, if you would have asked it five years ago it would probably have said 'no we would not accept this."

Of the seven political parties in the Riksdag (parliament), only the Kristdemokraterna (Christian Democrat) party opposed SSM. The Moderate Party with 97 seats had taken no formal position. They hold only 22 out of the 349 seats. The remaining five parties all favor SSM

Eight members of Parliament from the leading Moderate Party published an advertisement in the newspaper Dagens Nyheter, saying that they would rebel if the party does not support gay marriage. The ad said

"It is important that we, as Moderates and as the largest governing party [in the government coalition], show leadership, show what we stand for and start to act in this question."

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bullet 2007-JUN-15: The Moderate Party's board announced that they support a gender-neutral marriage law. That leaves the the Kristdemokraterna party isolated in their opposition to SSM. The Moderate Party leadership also wants to retain the right of churches to perform marriages, and to allow individual clergy to choose whether or not to marry same-sex couples.

The party was presented with the following text at its conference in 2007-OCT.:

"The time is ripe for a gender-neutral marriage law, with equal rights and responsibilities for all, regardless of whether people choose to share their lives with someone of the same sex or someone of the opposite sex. The same development has been seen in many of Europe's countries in recent years."

"Today's arrangements in which priests in the Church of Sweden and certain other faith groups have the right to officiate at marriages should remain in place. In line with the demands of freedom of religion it must be left to the faith groups themselves to decide which marriages are in line with their own faith."

Hans Wallmark, a board member from Skåne County, disagreed. He proposed a separate but equal system. He advocated:

"Partnership for same-sex couples and marriage for opposite-sex couples, but with the same rights and obligations for both." 5

bullet 2008-NOV-06: reported that a "gender-neutral marriage" act was being presented to parliament. It would extend to same-sex couples all of the same rights and obligations that opposite-sex couples have always enjoyed:

"... including church weddings, adoption and assisted pregnancies. ..."

"AFP reports, 'If the new legislation is adopted, Sweden, already a pioneer in giving same-sex couples the right to adopt children, would become the first country in the world to allow gays to marry within a major church'."

"Opposition to the legislation is being voiced by the Christian Democrat party, while the other three members of Sweden's four-party coalition government, as well as the opposition Social Democrats, the country's biggest party, support the proposal."

" 'Pastors who do not want to perform a gay wedding ceremony may however have the right to refuse, something gay rights' activists have criticized,' the AFP report states." 6

The legislation was expected to be approved because the Christian Democrats are the only party opposed to it. They hold only 22 seats in the 348 seat Riksdag (Parliament).

bullet 2009-JAN-14: Two leading politicians in the Christian Democrat party announced that they were opposed to their party's position and supported SSM.
bullet 2009-APR-02: Parliament overwhelmingly approved a bill recognizing SSM by a vote of 226 to 22. Six of Sweden's seven political parties favored the SSM bill. Only the Christian Democratic Party with its 24 seats in the Riksdag were opposed. Same-sex couples will be able to obtain marriage licenses on 2009-MAY-01.

Sweden became the fifth country in Europe to permit SSM, and the seventh in the world. The government website stated: "The decision means that gender no longer has an impact on the ability to marry and that the law on registered partnership is repealed."

The Lutheran Church is the largest church in the country. They have blessed same-sex partnerships since 2007-JAN, but have not yet given formal backing to same-sex marriage. They allow individual pastors to refuse to marry same-sex couples. Couples who are already in registered partnerships can choose to remain with that status or to marry. 7


2010-DEC: SAS, the airline co-owned by the governments of Sweden, Denmark and Norway, ran a contest involving their wedding on board an Airbus A340 flight from New York to Stockholm, a stay in that city, the flight back to New York City, accomodation there, a flight to Los Angeles, and accomodation there. Just three stipulations: the couple must write a story about their relationship, have it voted upon as the most inspiring, ..... and they must be of the same sex. Aleks and Shantu won. 8

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Same-sex marriage in Sweden," Wikipedia, at:
  2. "Eight EU Countries back same-sex marriage," Angus Reid Global Monitor, 2006-DEC-24, at:
  3. "Delphine Touitou, "Church weddings for gays soon a reality in Sweden," AFP, 2007-JUN-28, at:
  4. "Swedish bishops say yes to gay church weddings," The Local, 2007-MAR-16, at:
  5. "Moderate board comes out for gay marriage," The Local, 2007-MAR-16, at:
  6. Thaddeus M. Baklinski, "Sweden Considers 'Gender Neutral Marriage' Law,", 2008-NOV-06, at:
  7. "Sweden allows same-sex marriage." BBC News, 2009-APR-02, at:
  8. "Aleks & Shantu back in Berlin," SAS, 2010-DEC-16, at:

Copyright 2007 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-JUN-30
Latest update and review: 2014-NOV-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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