Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

Sweden: Same-Sex Marriage Law Passed

(Apr. 6, 2009) On April 1, 2009, the Riksdag (Sweden's parliament), in a vote of 226 to 22, passed a law permitting same-sex marriages, replacing the Registered Partnership Act of 1994. The new law becomes effective on May 1. Sweden is reportedly the fifth European country to adopt such a law, after the Netherlands (2000), Belgium (2003), Spain (2005), and Norway (2008). Canada and South Africa have adopted similar legislation (as have the states of Connecticut and Massachusetts in the United States and some houses of other U.S. state congresses, such as New Hampshire's House of Representatives and Vermont's Senate). (Christian Ehret, Sweden Parliament Passes Same-Sex Marriage Law, PAPER CHASE NEWSBURST, Apr. 1, 2009, available at
; Sweden Allows Same-Sex Marriage, BBC NEWS, Apr. 2, 2009, available at; Gender Can No Longer Hinder Marriage (CU19), Sveriges Riksdag official website, Apr. 1, 2009, available at; Sheri & Bob Stritof, Same Sex Marriage License Laws, ABOUT.COM, (last visited Apr. 2, 2009) [rough state-by-state list]; Same Sex Marriage, Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships, National Conference of State Legislatures website, (updated as of Nov. 2008).)

The gender-neutral marriage law gives same-sex couples the option of either continuing a legal partnership or applying for marital status. Although couples can choose either a civil or religious ceremony to wed under the new law, individual churches can opt not to conduct the marriage ceremony. Thus, Sweden's Lutheran Church, the country's largest denomination, has since January “offered to bless gay partnerships …, but has still not given formal backing to the term 'marriage', and will allow individual pastors to refuse to carry out gay weddings.” (BBC NEWS, supra.) Nevertheless, the law stipulates that clergymen, rather than judges, will be appointed to conduct civil marriage ceremonies. In regard to children raised in same-sex marriages, the Parliament is quoted as saying “the legislation benefits everyone, including children, by changing societal attitudes on homosexuals.” (PAPER CHASE NEWSBURST, supra.) (See also Proposition 2008/09:80 Äktenskapsfrågor [full text of the bill, in Swedish], Sveriges Riksdag official website, (last visited Apr. 2, 2009; Press Release, Sveriges Riksdag, Riksdagen beslutar om könsneutrala äktenskap på onsdag (Mar. 30, 2009), available at