Same-sex marriage in Sweden

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Same-sex marriage in Sweden has been legal since 1 May 2009, following the adoption of a new gender-neutral law on marriage by the Swedish Parliament on 1 April 2009,[1] making Sweden the seventh country in the world to open marriage to same-sex couples nationwide. Existing registered partnerships remain in force and can be converted to a marriage if the parties so desire, either through a written application or through a formal ceremony. New registered partnerships are no longer able to be entered into and marriage is now the only legally recognized form of union for couples regardless of sex.

On 22 October 2009, the governing board of the Church of Sweden, voted 176–62 in favour of allowing its priests to wed same-sex couples in new gender-neutral church ceremonies,[2] including the use of the term marriage.[3][4] Same-sex marriages have been performed by the church since 1 November 2009.[5]


Laws regarding same-sex partnerships in Europe¹
  Civil union
  Limited domestic recognition (cohabitation)
  Limited foreign recognition (residency rights)
  Constitution limits marriage to opposite-sex couples
¹ May include recent laws or court decisions that have not yet entered into effect.

Registered partnership[edit]

Registered partnership (Swedish: registrerat partnerskap) was legalised in Sweden in 1995. A law to this effect was approved in June 1994 by a vote of 171–141 and took effect on 1 January 1995. Sweden was the third country to legally recognise same-sex unions, after Denmark and Norway.

Registered partnerships, only available to same-sex couples, gave the full range of protections, responsibilities and benefits as marriage, including adoption and arrangements for the breakdown of the relationship. Same-sex registered partners could adopt jointly, and in vitro fertilisation for lesbian couples was allowed in 2005. Non-Swedes who were legally resident in Sweden have had the right to enter into registered partnerships since 2000.

The main distinction between registered partnership and marriage was that they were covered by separate laws, and that same-sex partnerships were a civil matter and could not be conducted through the church authority. LGBT groups complained about this inequality, advocating for a gender-neutral marriage, which would state that marriage can be conducted solely by the state, as is done in several other countries, rather than the current system in which churches have the authority to (legally) marry people, because this would further the separation of church and state.

Sweden also has a separate and more limited common-law marriage act for both unmarried and unregistered opposite-sex and same-sex couples. From 1988 to 2003, there were two different laws, one for opposite-sex couples and one for same-sex couples, which have since been united into a single law. Common-law marriage is also open to non-Swedes, which means that one does not have to be married to move to Sweden to live with one's partner.


In 2004, Parliament established a committee to investigate the possibility of opening marriage to same-sex partners. The report, issued in March 2007, supported enacting a gender-neutral marriage law and abolishing the registered partnership law (registered partnerships would be automatically converted into marriages) while granting an "opt-out" to religious institutions, which would allow them to refuse to marry same-sex couples.[6] This last point was quite controversial and increased calls for a civil-only marriage law. The committee further suggested that the Swedish Government bring the changes into effect by 1 January 2008.

Six of the seven political parties of the Riksdag were in favour of such a reform. These were the Left Party, the Greens, the Social Democrats, the Liberal People's Party, the Moderate Party and the Centre Party. The Christian Democrats opposed the idea, while the liberal conservative Moderates signed on their support at their party congress in 2007.[7][8] The majority of Swedes approved of same-sex marriage, but there was some strong opposition from religious organisations and other self-described "family-oriented" groups.

Many complained about the slowly advancing governmental process of changing partnership into marriage, especially as the two types of unions were already essentially the same and many considered the change inevitable and natural. They said there is no validity in the argument that same-sex marriage would threaten opposite-sex marriage because a gender-neutral marriage would have no greater impact on society than the current law and argued it was simply a matter of principle and equality. For the opposition, they saw it as a threat to the symbolic value of marriage.

Legal challenge[edit]

On 12 May 2008, media sources reported that a married same-sex couple from Canada were challenging the Swedish Government in court because it refused to recognise their relationship as a marriage.[9] Although a lower court – including the Court of Appeals – refused to hear the case, Sweden's highest administrative court, the Supreme Administrative Court, agreed to hear the case. The couple argued that a same-sex marriage entered into in accordance with Canadian law should be recognised in Sweden, despite the fact that there was no legal basis for it under then current Swedish law. On 18 December 2008, the Court ruled that the Swedish Tax Authority did not break any rules as the definition of marriage under Swedish law was at the time the union of one man and one woman, and that same-sex relationships were to be recognised as a registered partnership.[10]

Vote for same-sex marriage[edit]

The Government consisted of the Moderate Party, the Centre Party, the Liberal People's Party, and the Christian Democratic Party. The Swedish Minister for Justice, Beatrice Ask, who had responsibility on the matter, reacted positively when the commission presented its result. How the legalisation would end was not clear as one of the coalition partners was against it. The leader of the Social Democratic Party said that she would put forward a bill in the Parliament itself if the Government could not unite on the issue.

In early October 2007, the Green Party, Left Party and Social Democratic Party said they would join forces to introduce an opposition motion in Parliament to legalize same-sex marriage.

On 27 October 2007, the Moderate Party formally backed same-sex marriages, meaning that the Christian Democrats would be the only party to oppose the law. Göran Hägglund, the leader of the Christian Democrats, stated on Swedish Radio, "my position is that I have been tasked by the party to argue that marriage is for men and women. … When we discuss it between parties we are naturally open and sensitive to each other's arguments and we'll see if we can find a line that allows us to come together."[11]

On 12 December 2007, the Church of Sweden gave the green light for same-sex couples to wed in the church, but recommended the term marriage be restricted to opposite-sex couples. It was asked by the Government for its opinion on the matter before the introduction of legislation in early 2008. "Marriage and (same-sex) partnerships are equivalent forms of unions. Therefore the Church of Sweden's central board says yes to the proposal to join the legislation for marriages and partnerships into a single law," the Church said in a statement. "According to the Church of Sweden's board the word 'marriage' should, however, only be used for the relationship between a woman and a man," it said.[12]

On 14 January 2008, two leading politicians in the Christian Democrats took a position against the party and started to support same-sex marriage.[13]

Reports suggested the Government would table its same-sex marriage bill in early 2008, however, they had yet to propose a bill. This was likely due to the Christian Democrats' opposition from within the four-party centre-right governing coalition despite their being the only party opposing the move. After negotiations on a compromise broke down and facing a parliamentary ultimatum in late October 2008,[14] the Government prepared to present its bill to a free vote.

On 21 January 2009, a bill was introduced to the Swedish Parliament to make the legal concept of marriage within the Marriage Code (Swedish: Äktenskapsbalken)[a] gender-neutral.[21] The bill was passed on 1 April and took effect on 1 May.[22] The bill was supported by all parties except the Christian Democrats and one member of Centre Party.[23][24] It passed with 261 votes in favour, 22 votes against and 16 abstentions.[1]

1 April 2009 vote in the Parliament of Sweden[25]
Party Votes for Votes against Abstained Absent (Did not vote)
     Swedish Social Democratic Party - -
 G  Moderate Party -
 G  Centre Party -
 G  Liberal People's Party - -
 G  Christian Democrats -
     Left Party - -
     Green Party - -
Total 261 22 16 50

Church of Sweden[edit]

In 2009, Eva Brunne was elected and consecrated as the Lutheran Bishop of Stockholm. She was the first lesbian bishop in the world and the first bishop of the Church of Sweden to be in a registered same-sex partnership.[26]

On 22 October 2009, the Assembly of the Church of Sweden (which is no longer the state church) voted strongly in favour of giving its blessing to same-sex marriages,[4] including the use of the term marriage. It was the first major church in Sweden to take this position on same-sex marriage.[27] Archbishop of Uppsala Anders Wejryd commented that he was pleased with the decision.[2] The second and third largest Christian denominations in the country, the Catholic Church and the Pentecostalist Movement of Sweden, commented that they were "disappointed" with the decision of the Church of Sweden.[28] The Muslim Association of Sweden had already stated that no imams will marry same-sex couples.[29]

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said in June 2017 that he does not believe a priest working for the Church of Sweden should be allowed to refuse to wed same-sex couples.[30][31][32]


A study by the Danish Research Institute for Suicide Prevention, released in 2019, showed that the legalisation of same-sex marriage, as well as other supportive policies and legislation, had decreased the suicide rate among same-sex partners. The study, conducted in both Sweden and Denmark, found a 46% fall in suicides of people in same-sex unions between the periods 1989-2002 and 2003-2016, compared to 28% among heterosexual couples.[33][34]


In July 2013, Statistics Sweden (SCB) released estimates on the number of people who had married a partner of the same sex since marriage legalisation in 2009. The group found that in all jurisdictions of Sweden bar one (Stockholm County) more female same-sex marriages had occurred than male same-sex marriages. As of July 2013, 4,521 females were married to another female in Sweden, compared to 3,646 males in same-sex marriages.[35] The odd figure for female marriages is due to the SCB not including foreigners in the statistics.[35] Most same-sex marriages took place in Stockholm County, Västra Götaland County, Skåne County and Uppsala County.

According to SCB, by the end of 2017, 12,158 people were in a same-sex marriage. Of these, 56% were women and 44% were men. SCB estimated that the average age of marriage for women in same-sex relationships in Sweden was 34 years, while for men it was 41 years (compared to 34 and 36, respectively, for opposite-sex couples). Stockholm, Västra Götaland and Skåne counties saw the most same-sex marriages, while Gotland, Jämtland and Blekinge saw the fewest.[36]

Public opinion[edit]

A Eurobarometer poll conducted in autumn 2006 found that 71% of Swedes supported legalising same-sex marriage, with a high of 87% in Stockholm County and a low of 58% in Jönköping County. This public approval was the second highest in the European Union at the time.[37]

A YouGov poll, conducted between 27 December 2012 and 6 January 2013, found that 79% of Swedes supported same-sex marriage, 14% were opposed and 7% had no opinion.[38]

A May 2013 Ipsos poll found that 81% of respondents were in favour of same-sex marriage and another 9% supported other forms of recognition for same-sex couples.[39]

The 2015 Eurobarometer found that 90% of Swedes thought that same-sex marriage should be allowed throughout Europe, 7% were against.[40]

A Pew Research Center poll, conducted between April and August 2017 and published in May 2018, showed that 88% of Swedes supported same-sex marriage, 7% were opposed and 5% didn't know or refused to answer.[41] When divided by religion, 94% of religiously unaffiliated people, 90% of non-practicing Christians and 65% of church-attending Christians supported same-sex marriage.[42] Opposition was 5% among 18-34-year-olds.[43]

The 2019 Eurobarometer found that 92% of Swedes thought same-sex marriage should be allowed throughout Europe, 6% were against.[44]

Current party positions on same-sex marriage[edit]

Currently, all the major parties represented in the Riksdag are in favour of the same-sex marriage. However, the Sweden Democrats and the Christian Democrats are in favour of state-recognized same-sex marriage, while believing that religious organisations or individuals working within them (such as priests in the Church of Sweden) should be able to refuse to perform them.[45][46]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ In Sweden's recognized minority languages: Avioliittokaari in Finnish and Meänkieli,[15] Náittosláhka in Northern Sami,[16] Gállasjvuohtabálka in Lule Sami,[17] Ektievoetebalke in Southern Sami,[18] Solaxarimasko in Romani,[19] and חתונה־תּקנות, khsunh-sknus in Yiddish.[20]


  1. ^ a b "Gays Win Marriage Rights". Sveriges Radio English. 1 April 2009.
  2. ^ a b Church of Sweden Priests to Wed Gay Couples in Gender-Neutral Ceremonies, Fox News, October 22, 2009.
  3. ^ Church of Sweden to conduct gay weddings, UPI, October 22, 2009.
  4. ^ a b Ringborg, Maria (22 October 2009). "Kyrkomötet öppnade för enkönade äktenskap". Dagens Nyheter (in Swedish).
  5. ^ "Swedish church to allow gay marriages". Diligent Media Corporation Ltd. October 22, 2009.
  6. ^ "Inquiry gives green light to gay marriage". The Local. 21 March 2007.
  7. ^ More Support for Gay Marriage
  8. ^ Moderates back gay marriage
  9. ^ "Gay Couple Sues Swedish Government for Recognition". 365Gay. 2008-05-12. Archived from the original on 2008-06-16.
  10. ^ High court rejects gay priest marriage case
  11. ^ "6 of 7 Swedish Parties Back Gay Marriage". 2007-10-28.
  12. ^ "Church of Sweden approves gay marriage law". The Local. 2007-12-07.
  13. ^ "Kd-politiker går mot partiet". (Dagens Nyheter). 2008-01-14.
  14. ^ Government rules out gay marriage compromise
  15. ^ "Sukupuolineutraalit avioliitot ja vihkiminen". Regeringskansliet (in Tornedalen Finnish). 29 November 2010.
  16. ^ "Nállebeali neutrála náitaleapmi ja vihaheapmi". Regeringskansliet (in Northern Sami). 29 November 2010.
  17. ^ "Sjiervveneutrála gállasjvuoda ja fiesstim". Regeringskansliet (in Lule Sami). 29 November 2010.
  18. ^ "Köneneutraleles pruvres-ektievoete jïh vigsele". Regeringskansliet (in Southern Sami). 29 November 2010.
  19. ^ "Manušengo – neutralno komunako (forosko) solaxarimo taj khangerako". Regeringskansliet (in Finnish Kalo). 29 November 2010.
  20. ^ "חתונות און חתונה־צערעמ ניעס צווישן ערז נען ון זעלביקן געשלעכט". Regeringskansliet (in Yiddish). 29 November 2010.
  21. ^ Swedish proposal on gay marriage presented to parliament
  22. ^ "Riksdagen beslutar om könsneutrala äktenskap på onsdag" (Press release) (in Swedish). Swedish Parliament. 30 March 2009.
  23. ^ "Sweden to allow gay marriage in May". The Local. AFP. 21 January 2009.
  24. ^ Government Splits Over Gay Marriage
  25. ^ "Votering: betänkande 2008/09:CU19 Könsneutrala äktenskap och vigselfrågor, förslagspunkt 1 - Omröstning 2008/09:CU19p1 (Könsneutrala äktenskap och vigselfrågor)" (in Swedish). Sveriges Riksdag. 1 April 2009. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  26. ^ Schjonberg, Mary Frances. "SWEDEN: Lesbian priest ordained as Lutheran bishop of Stockholm". Episcopal News Service. Retrieved 9 June 2013.
  27. ^ Filks, Ilze (October 22, 2009). "Swedish church to allow gay marriages". Reuters.
  28. ^ "Sweden's Lutheran church to celebrate gay weddings". AFP via Google News. October 23, 2009.
  29. ^ "Imam: Islam förbjuder samkönade äktenskap" (in Swedish). Dagen. November 18, 2008. Archived from the original on June 26, 2014.
  30. ^ "Swedish Prime Minister: priests should be forced to perform same-sex weddings", Christian Broadcasting Network, 23 June 2017, accessed 6 October 2017.
  31. ^ "Swedish PM tells priests to carry out same-sex marriages ‘or do something else’", 24 June 2017, accessed 6 October 2017.
  32. ^ "Stefan Löfven: ”Alla präster ska viga samkönade par”", Kyrkans tidning, 21 June 2017, accessed 6 October 2017.
  33. ^ "Suicides fall with gay marriage in Sweden, Denmark as stigma fades". Reuters. 14 November 2019.
  34. ^ "Suicide rates fall after gay marriage legalised in Sweden and Denmark". The Guardian. 14 November 2019.
  35. ^ a b "Swedish lesbians wed more often than gay men". The Local - Sweden Edition. 26 July 2013.
  36. ^ "Samkönade äktenskap vanligast bland kvinnor". Statistics Sweden (in Swedish). 27 November 2018.
  37. ^ "Eight EU countries back same-sex marriage". Archived from the original on 2009-05-18. Retrieved 2008-05-15.
  38. ^ YouGov / EMEA Survey Results
  39. ^ "Same-Sex Marriage". Ipsos. 7–21 May 2013. Archived from the original on 14 March 2016.
  40. ^ Special Eurobarometer 437
  41. ^ Religion and society, Pew Research Center, 29 May 2018
  42. ^ Being Christian in Western Europe, Pew Research Center, 29 May 2018
  43. ^ Eastern and Western Europeans Differ on Importance of Religion, Views of Minorities, and Key Social Issues, Pew Research Center, 2017
  44. ^ "Eurobarometer on Discrimination 2019: The social acceptance of LGBTI people in the EU". TNS. European Commission. p. 2. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  45. ^ "Äktenskap" [Marriage]. (in Swedish). Kristdemokraterna. Retrieved 2018-03-03. Kristdemokraterna förespråkar en civilrättslig registrering som är lika för hetero- och homosexuella par. Därmed skiljer man på den rättsliga ordning som staten ska reglera och kyrkornas ceremoni. Förslaget har sin grund i förhållandet att kyrka och stat numera är åtskilda och innebär att myndighetsutövningen i detta sammanhang förbehålls staten. Rent praktiskt innebär det att alla par som vill gifta sig går till en myndighet, exempelvis skattemyndigheten, och registrerar det juridiska förbundet. Därefter inramar varje par giftermålet på det sätt som de själva önskar.
  46. ^ Larsson, Mats J. (2017-09-10). "S och SD i hård konflikt om kyrkan" [S and SD in hard battle about the church]. Dagens Nyheter (in Swedish). Retrieved 2018-03-03. [SD] har tidigare varit emot samkönade äktenskap, men säger sig nu acceptera den ordning som gäller i dag. Däremot vill SD att nya präster som inte vill viga homosexuella par ska få en plats i kyrkan.

External links[edit]