Sweden may allow homosexuals to wed in the Lutheran Church or civil ceremonies as of May if parliament adopts legislation presented to parliament Wednesday, the prime minister's party said.
"The main proposal in the motion is that ... a person's gender will no longer have any bearing on whether they can marry. The marriage law and other laws concerning spouses will be rendered gender neutral according to the proposal," a statement from Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt's conservative Moderates said.
AdvertisementThe proposal has wide backing in parliament and is expected to be adopted, though a date has yet to be set for a vote.
While heterosexuals in Sweden can choose to marry in either a civil ceremony or a church ceremony, homosexuals are currently only allowed to register their "partnerships" in a civil ceremony.
Civil unions granting gays and lesbians the same legal status as married couples have been allowed in Sweden since 1995.
If the new legislation is adopted, Sweden, already a pioneer in giving same-sex couples the right to adopt children, would become the first country in the world to allow gays to marry within a major Church.
In 2007, 74 percent of Swedes were members of the Lutheran Church.
The Lutheran Church, which was separated from the state in 2000, has since January 2007 offered gays a religious blessing of their union.
It has previously said it wants the word "marriage" reserved for heterosexual unions, and a Church synod late this year is expected to take a formal decision on Wednesday's proposal.
According to the proposal, pastors who do not want to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony would have the right to refuse, something gay rights' activists criticised.
The Swedish Association for Sexuality Education said that gave "authorities a legal right to discriminate", and suggested that all religious communities' right to perform marriage ceremonies be withdrawn.
Sweden's four-party centre-right government has been split on the issue, with the junior partner Christian Democrats also opposed to the use of the word "marriage" for homosexual unions.
However the three other coalition members, the Moderates, the Liberals and the Centre Party, as well as the opposition Social Democrats, the country's biggest party, are in favour of a gender neutral law and would together garner enough support to adopt the legislation in parliament.