2008-05-29 16:38:23 -
OSLO, Norway (AP) - Two Norwegian opposition parties on Thursday backed the rights of gay couples to marry in church, adopt and have assisted pregnancies, effectively assuring the passage of a new equality law next month.
The ruling three-party government proposed a law in March giving gay couples equal rights to heterosexuals but disagreements within
the coalition cast doubt on whether it would receive enough votes to pass.
But two opposition parties announced Thursday they were backing the proposals, a move welcomed by gay rights groups, which should ensure a parliamentary majority and allow the law to be passed.
«This is a historic day,» said lawmaker Gunn Karin Gjul of the Labor Party, which is part of the ruling coalition along with the Socialist Left and the Center Party.
«A universal marriage law allows homosexuals to marry, be considered as adoptive parents and have assisted pregnancies, just like heterosexuals. This means we're removing all discrimination of homosexuals.
The new legislation would replace a 1993 law that gives gays the right to enter civil unions similar to marriage, but did not allow church weddings or adoption. Gjul said lawmakers will vote on the law on June 11 and if passed as expected will go into force next year.
«We are very, very happy.... This is a historic victory,» said Jon Reidar Oeyan, leader of the national Association of Lesbian and Gay Liberation.
Under the proposed law, gay couples can marry in a church, but only if a majority in the congregation agree and clergy cannot be forced to take the service.
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 is likely to allow each congregation to decide on whether to conduct homosexual weddings. It did the same last year in allowing parishes to decide whether to accept clergymen living in gay partnerships.
When the was law proposed, the Center party said its members of parliament would vote according to their consciences because of strong opposition from some to allowing assisted pregnancies for gays.
The largest opposition party, the right-wing Party of Progress, also opposed the law, saying it was being rushed through parliament without sufficient national debate.
In 1989, Denmark became the world's first country to allow civil unions for gays, similar to Norway's current law. In 2001, The Netherlands became the first country to offer full marriage rights to gay couples.
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