(July 2, 2008) On June 17, 2008, the Norwegian parliament, the Storting, approved legislation permitting same-sex marriage that will come into force on January 1, 2009. The bill had been proposed by the parliamentary Standing Committee on Family and Cultural Affairs and had previously been passed by the lower house on a vote of 84-41; the upper house passed the bill 32-17. Under a 1993 law that is replaced by the new text, same-sex couples in the country have had the right to form civil partnerships. Under the law, couples will be permitted but not required to have a church ceremony and churches do not necessarily have to agree to perform the weddings. Since the Lutheran Church of Norway, to which about 85 percent of the population belongs, is divided on the issue of same-sex marriages, it may be that each congregation will be able to decide whether to hold the ceremonies.
Norway is not alone in Europe in recognizing gay marriage; it joins Belgium, the Netherlands, and Spain in doing so. Civil unions or registered partnerships are recognized in Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. (Andrew Gilmore, Norway Parliament Approves Same-Sex Marriage Law, PAPER CHASE NEWSBURST, June 18, 2008, available at http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/paperchase/2008/06/norway-parliament-approves-
same-sex.php; Norway Passes Law Approving Gay Marriage, AP, June 18, 2008, available at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25218048/.)