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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 18, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 25
Iceland approves marriage equality
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Iceland approves marriage equality

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Iceland's parliament, the Althing, passed a marriage equality law on June 11.

The vote was unanimous, 49-0.

The measure adds the words 'man and man, woman and woman' to the country's marriage laws.

Iceland's president, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, is expected to sign the bill into law. Once he does, Iceland will be the seventh European country to legalize same-sex marriage.

Marriage equality is not controversial in Iceland. Public opinion polls regularly showed a majority of the population in support of equality.

Under the provisions of the law, churches will have the option to perform same-sex weddings or not.

"Ministers will always be free to perform [Gay] marriage ceremonies, but never obliged to," the law says.

Eighty percent of Icelanders are affiliated with the Lutheran National Church of Iceland. The church did not oppose the new law, but has not yet decided if it will offer same-sex marriage ceremonies.

Iceland is a parliamentary democracy where the party which controls the majority of votes in the Althing forms the government and sets the legislative agenda.

The country has been governed by a center-left coalition of the Social Democratic Alliance and the Left-Green Movement since the previous conservative government collapsed in the wake of an economic meltdown in February 2009.

Iceland's Prime Minister, Johanna Sigurdardottir, is the world's first openly Lesbian head of government.

She joined in a registered partnership with Jonina Leosdottir in 2002. Both have children by previous marriages to men.

Iceland repealed its laws banning homosexuality in 1940. In 1992, the Althing lowered the age of consent to 14 for both sexes, and banned any discrimination based on age of consent.

Registered partnerships for same-sex couples were established by law in 1996. Anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT Icelanders in all areas of social life were passed in the same year.

In 2006 the Althing passed laws giving same-sex couples all the reproductive and parenting rights offered to opposite-sex couples.

This year, Sigurdardottir's government passed legislation banning strip clubs, nude wait-persons, and other commercial actions deemed to be demeaning to women.

Iceland elected a woman, Vigdis Finnbogadottir, to the ceremonial post of president in 1980. She served until 1996.

Like their Viking ancestors, modern Icelanders use patronymics rather than family names. Iceland's president Olafur is the son of Grim, so he is Olafur Grimsson. His two daughters are Gudrun and Svanhildur Olafsdottir.

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