Icelandic residents attending a church convention last week voted to allow priests to validate cohabitations between two members of the same sex. The agreement is provisional on amendments to the law allowing religious groups the authority to bestow such validation.
According to a report by a local newspaper, Icelandic Bishop Karl Sigurbjörnsson, is satisfied with the outcome of the decision which is perhaps the first of its kind. Although there was disagreement on the issue, Sigurbjörnsson said the congregation was able to reach a compromise.
The bishop explained that the church had long debated the definition of marriage. Various members of the congregation were divided on the issue. Some believe that marriage is a holy union between any two individuals while others maintain that marriage is a holy union between members of the opposite sex only.
As a compromise, the church has not changed the traditional definition of a marriage from its heterosexual definition. However, the church did allow same-sex relationships to receive some validation from the church.
In 2001, the Netherlands became the first country to officially validate the unions of same-sex couples. Today marriage is possible for any two people regardless of their sex in Belgium, Canada, South Africa and Spain. Several other countries, such as Israel, recognize same sex marriages performed in other countries.