Norway Moves To Legalize Gay Marriage

by Newscenter Staff
Posted: March 14, 2008 - 11:00 am ET

(Oslo) The Norwegian government on Friday introduced legislation allowing same-sex couples to marry and have joint custody over children.

The country already allows gay and lesbian couples to enter into civil partnerships, but LGBT rights groups have long complained the law does not go far enough and has created two classes of citizenship - one for heterosexuals the other for gays.

The new legislation amends the definition of civil marriage to make it gender neutral.

It also says that when a lesbian who is married to another women becomes pregnant through in vitro the partner will have all the rights of parenthood "from the moment of conception".

The legislation additionally states that in cases of adoption, both partners, gay or lesbian, would have complete joint parenting rights.

Family Issues minister Anniken Huitfeldt in introducing the bill called it "an historic step towards equality."

She also had a message for some members of Parliament who claimed the bill would weaken tradition marriage.

"The new law won't weaken marriage as an institution," Huitfeldt told Parliament. "Rather, it will strengthen it. Marriage won't be worth less because more can take part in it."

Some members of the coalition government have said they will vote against the measure. Parliament's second-largest bloc, the Party of Progress, and the smaller Christian Democratic Party both immediately said they would oppose the bill.

About 85 percent of Norway's 4.7 million people are registered as members of the state Lutheran Church of Norway, although far fewer are active.

The church is split on the issue of gay marriage, and was likely to allow each congregation to decide whether to conduct homosexual weddings, as it did last year in allowing parishes to decide whether to accept clergymen living in gay partnerships.