STOCKHOLM, Sweden Sweden’s Lutheran Church is willing to marry gay couples in church if the government decides to make same-sex weddings legal, a spokesman for the Swedish Church Assembly said Friday, March 16.
Since 1994, Sweden has recognized civil unions between same-sex couples, but marriage in the traditional sense has remained illegal. On Wednesday, March 21, however, a government-appointed committee was set to present a report on whether the law allowing civil unions between gays and lesbians should be changed to also include marriage.
Bishop Claes-Bertil Ytterberg, spokesman for the Swedish Church Assembly, the decision-making body for the Church of Sweden, said that if the report proposes a law change to allow same-sex weddings, the church will support it and will open its doors for same-sex ceremonies. But it will be up to the individual priest to decide whether to perform it.
“There’s been a long discussion and this is a stance that has developed along the way,” he said. But, Ytterberg said, even though this would mean that same-sex couples would be wed in the same way as heterosexual couples, the church would like the ceremony to have a different name.
“It [the ceremony] joins them in the same way,” he said, “but we want it to be called something else because [the word] wedding is so traditional and is reserved for men and women. But the name [of it] is another question.”
The church blessing of same-sex couples has been a debated issue within the Swedish church community, but in 2005 it decided to allow special church ceremonies to mark civil unions. Ytterberg said there is still some rifts on the issue within the church, but that it had become less visible, particularly among its younger members. Around 7 million of Sweden’s 9 million inhabitants belong to the Church of Sweden, but few attend regularly.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, March 23, 2007.