Gay Danish couples given green light for church marriage

Gay couples in Denmark will be permitted to wed in any church they want, although almost one third of priests in the country have said they will not perform the ceremonies.

The Scandinavian country’s parliament voted on homosexual marriage and, by a large majority, were in favour of it, meaning churches across Denmark are not permitted to refuse gay marriages. The country’s church minister, Manu Sareen, described the result as “historic”, explaining that he felt it was very important all church members were given the right to marry.

The new law stipulates that individual priests have the right to refuse to conduct the ceremony but, should that happen, local bishops are charged with finding a replacement.

The far-right Dansk Folkeparti (Danish People’s Party) had campaigned strongly against the new law, but 85 of the total 111 MPs in Denmark saw them easily defeated. The party’s church spokesman, Christian Langballe, claimed that it was wrong to change something as fundamental as marriage, adding that it was meant to be between a man and a woman.

Sareen, a confessed agnostic who has campaigned on passing the legislation since being named church minister last autumn, said the debate process had been tough. He noted that the minority of politicians, priests and people who have been against the move, had pushed very hard to prevent it happening.

The Bishop of Viborg, Karsten Nissen, who is among those refusing to conduct the ceremonies, said the new regulation could divide the church.

However, despite Nissen’s concerns, the majority of people are in favour of the new law. Former right-wing politician Stig Elling is set to marry his long-term partner this week. He said that it was positive a majority of people, including bishops and priests, were now supporting gay marriage.

Denmark has been regarded as a gay-friendly country for decades. In 1989, it became the world’s first country to offer homosexual couples civil unions.