Swedish opposition may force gay marriage vote

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The three opposition parties in Sweden have said they may force a bill through parliament to extend marriage to gay and lesbian couples.

Under current laws, dating back to 1987, marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman.

Gay and lesbian couple can register their partnership through a civil ceremony, a process introduced in 1995 which gives same-sex couples the same rights as married couples.

A new piece of proposed “gender-neutral” legislation however, may soon remove this distinction allowing anybody to marry in the Church of Sweden.

Six of the seven parties represented in parliament are in support of gay marriage with only the Christian Democrats, a junior member of the four-party coalition, opposing it.

The opposition Social Democrats, Greens and Left party claim the government has had ample time to bring forward legislation.

However the coalition says it is committed to negotiating a common position.

The Christian Democrats condemned any attempt by the opposition to “steamroller” the government.

“I think this is terribly immoral of the opposition,” Christian Democrat member of the Civil Affairs Committee Yvonne Andersson told The Local.

“The consultation period ends today and it is our duty to consider the responses to the consultation.”

Gay marriage is supported by LGBT activists in the country.

“I think it would be great if the Swedish law passed,” said Soeren Andersson of the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights.

“In changing the law everybody could be equal.”

In January 2007 the Church of Sweden, which was disestablished in 2000, began offering religious blessings to gay unions and actively welcomed LGBT clergy.

While the Church’s initial reaction to be bill was to declare it would prefer “marriage” to be a term reserved from heterosexual union, last month it approved the “gender neutral” proposal.

“The Church of Sweden’s central board says yes to the proposal to join the legislation for marriages and partnerships into a single law,” the Church said in December.

Some priests may opt out of performing same-sex ceremonies.

They can currently decline to marry divorced people as long as another priest agress to perform the ceremony.

Approximately 75% of the population are members of the Church of Sweden, a Lutheran denomination. However, only 2% regularly attend services.