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Denmark: Same-Sex Marriage to Be Approved

(Mar. 22, 2012) Denmark's government announced a proposal on March 13, 2012, that would legalize same-sex marriages in the country, beginning on June 15 of this year. According to Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, legislation to permit gays and lesbians to marry in Danish Evangelical Lutheran churches and at municipal offices is in the works. “We have looked at two laws that will provide the gay and lesbian community the opportunity to get married in the church and at city hall,” she said, adding, “[t]he administration and I firmly believe that this is a natural step to take in a modern society like Denmark.” Approximately 80% of Danes are Evangelical Lutherans. (Christian Wenande, Church Bells to Ring for Gays and Lesbians, THE COPENHAGEN POST (Mar. 14, 2012); Denmark Submits Gay Marriage Bill, NEWS.COM.AU (Mar. 15, 2012).)

Denmark has often been in the forefront in the advancement of gay rights, permitting same-sex civil unions since 1989 and permitting gay couples to adopt since 2009. (Denmark Submits Gay Marriage Bill, supra.) Under the new legislation being considered, each member of the clergy would be able to decide whether to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. Per Bucholdt Andreasen, the chairman of the Priests Association, estimated that 70% of the 2,000 members of the organization would agree to preside over such weddings. (Wenande, supra.) Complications may arise for couples in existing civil unions who wish to be married; one report suggests that the civil union would have to be dissolved before a wedding could be held in a church. (Id.)