Same-sex rite under fire

By on January 1, 2004

Stockholm

Plans by the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden to introduce a ceremony for same-sex couples have stirred protests from leaders of other denominations, including the Roman Catholic church, two Orthodox churches and the Pentecostal movement.

“This action will inevitably affect ecumenical talks and relations in a negative direction,” nine church leaders wrote in a November letter to the board of the Church of Sweden, criticizing the decision.

The Church of Sweden ‘s assembly in October commissioned the church board to draw up a liturgy for a church ceremony for same-sex partnerships. The plans come as Sweden ‘s parliament is considering introducing a new “sex-neutral” marriage law, to include both homosexual and heterosexual partnerships.

If the new law on marriage is introduced, the church ceremony would mean that homosexual couples would be married in the eyes of the law, as is the case at present with heterosexual couples who get married in church.

“We officially accept same-sex relations within the church,” said Bo Larsson, head of the office of Archbishop K. G. Hammar, the leader of the Church of Sweden. “And many of us are not only glad and proud of it, but we want to talk about it. Jesus and the Gospel stand for everybody’s right to equality and freedom from oppression.”

The Ombudsman against Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation, a non-governmental public body set up by the country’s parliament in 1999, in November called for a change in the law to allow same-sex couples to get married under the same conditions as heterosexual couples.

At present there are different laws in Sweden regulating marriage and “registered partnerships,” the latter which is used by same-sex couples to register and make public their relationship. Another law, regulating rights and duties for couples living together, introduced in 2003, applies both to heterosexual and homosexual couples.

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