Gay couples in Denmark should soon be able to have religious wedding ceremonies after the government struck an agreement with the church.
If the bill passes in parliament, the long-awaited law change could come into effect by as early as next summer.
“It’s historic; it’s the biggest thing since female ministers were allowed in the Folkekirken [the Church of Denmark],” Manu Sareen, the church and equality minister, said in a press conference.
The creation of a new marriage rite will enable vicars to wed same-sex couples in church, granting them identical status and rights as heterosexuals. Couples will be referred to as ‘spouses’ (ægtefælle), rather than ‘husband and wife’ (ægtepar).
“I think that most people in the Folkekirken are happy that there is finally a political decision on which way to proceed,” the Bishop of Copenhagen, Peter Skov-Jakobsen, told Politiken. “But I also think there are some people who will be disappointed that the distinction between marriage and partnership will disappear,” he added.
Last year, 11 out of 12 people appointed to a Church Ministry committee said they saw gay marriage and heterosexual marriage as two different things. A subsequent report also concluded that members thought the idea of ‘gender-neutral’ marriage rites would give a “strangely abstract view of humans”.
“It’s more than we had ever hoped for,” LGBT Denmark chairman Vivi Jelstrup told Politiken. “Words mean so much and not being able to call yourself spouses today is a sign of inequality.”
Gender-neutral marriages are already legal in Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, Iceland and Belgium.