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Church Weddings for Gays Soon a Reality in Sweden

Sweden, already a pioneer in giving same-sex couples the right to adopt children, looks set to allow gays to marry in the Lutheran Church, with plans to introduce a new marriage law in January 2008.

If the so-called 'gender neutral' marriage legislation is adopted, the Scandinavian country would become the first in the world to allow gays to marry within a major church.

Other countries only allow gays to hold civil ceremonies.

Sweden's current law from 1987 defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. The new law would strike any reference to gender.

While heterosexuals can currently marry in either a civil ceremony or a church ceremony, homosexuals are only allowed to register their partnerships in a civil ceremony.

'I think it would be great if the Swedish law passed. In changing the law everybody could be equal in the eyes of the law,' Soeren Andersson of the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights told AFP.

'It's a kind of a revolution in a way. Because when you look at the big Swedish Church, if you would have asked it five years ago it would probably have said 'no we would not accept this',' he added.

The Lutheran Church, which was separated from the state in 2000, has since January 2007 offered gays a religious blessing of their union.

Some pastors are ready to go further and marry gay couples.

'If today we are blessing homosexuals, I see no reason not to celebrate gay marriages,' pastor Arne Wikstroem of the Oscars parish in central Stockholm said.

'I think all people are equal before God. And no man is unholy or unblessed. We are all equal and all need God's blessings in our lives,' he said.

'If God has created people as homosexuals, we must accept them and we must bless them,' he added.

On the political side, six of the seven parties represented in parli
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