June 17 , 2008
expansion of human rights
By Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell
Today, Norway's upper house voted in favour of gay marriage. The 23-17 vote comes after the country's lower house voted 84-41 for gender neutral legislation in parliament last week.
The new legislation becomes effective January 1, 2009. It replaces a 1993 law that supported registered domestic partnerships, a second-class status that was increasingly unacceptable in a civil society. Same-sex couples who have previously registered their partnership will be able to convert the partnership into marriage.
"We are so overjoyed. We have worked for this for so long," said Jon Reidar Oeyan, leader of the Norwegian National Association of Lesbian and Gay Liberation, in an AP report today. "Now we are going to celebrate. "I didn't dare until I heard the chairman of the upper house bang the hammer."
UPI reported (June 13) that the public gallery of The Storting, as Norway's parliament is known, erupted in cheers and applause as elected members brought down the barriers to same-sex marriage.
A majority of the state's Evangelical Lutheran Church also supports the legislation. Last year the Church lifted a ban barring gays living in partnerships from serving in the clergy. According to Religion News Service (June 12), 85 percent of Norway's 4.7 million people are registered with the church. The church is currently working on a new liturgy to support same-sex couples seeking a religious marriage, beginning next year.
Norway is the first country in Scandinavia to achieve the new benchmark of human rights: equal marriage for same-sex couples. It is the sixth country in the world to legalize marriage for same-sex couples after the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada and South Africa.
Congratulations to the couples, their families and friends, advocates, lawyers, politicians, clergy and volunteers who helped achieve equal marriage in Norway. The country now stands as a benchmark for others in the region. We anticipate their neighbours will soon follow.
A parliamentary committee in Sweden recommended equal marriage in 2006, with the Church of Sweden endorsing the proposal in 2007. Then in April 2008, Sweden's Parliament rejected the committee recommendations by a vote of 139 to 134. Instead, The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights says "Both Prime Minister Reinfeldt and Minister of Justice Beatrice Ask have promised that the government will present a bill during the fall."
Norway's example should help nudge Sweden along.
married in Norway:
you are not residing in Norway at the time of your marriage application
and do not have a Norwegian personal identification number, applications
are carried out by the Office of the National Registrar (Sentralkontor
for folkeregistrering) in Oslo. Procedures for civil marriage ceremonies
in Norway are conducted by a Notary Public. Contact the City Recorder's
Office (byfogdembete) or District Court (tingrett) where you intend to
get married for details.