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A journey towards equality

This post was written as a Storify collaboration with journalism students in Wollongong, Australia.

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It means our love is worth as much as any other love. And that it doesn’t matter whether you are man and man or man and woman or woman and woman but all love is of equal worth.

 

 Svenska Dagbladet, 2009-05-01

In 2009 Sweden became one of the first European countries to legalise same-sex marriages. The law was put in act by the 1st of May, and after a vote in the Swedish church council it was also possible to have a church ceremony performed by a minister after the 1st of November. This received some international coverage, for example by the BBC.

Although this did not pass without debate, Sweden has in several ways been a leading nation in gay legal rights. Gay couples have been allowed to adopt since 2003, and before they could be legally married there was something called a ”registered partnership” which basically offered the same legal benefits as a marriage would have. This earlier act was passed back in 1995.

Sweden was also among the first countries in the world not to define homosexuality as a disease, after eight years of fighting from RFSL (the Swedish federation for homo-, bi- and transsexuals’ rights) it was abolished in 1979. There is a text in Swedish about this here.

 

Even though it is now legal for same sex couples to both marry and adopt, it is not exactly smooth sailing. A Swedish congregation is not allowed to refuse any couple, but each individual priest has the right to do so if they feel it goes against their personal beliefs. This is of course a kind approach towards the minister, but it also keeps a piece of the notion of homosexuality being something bad or wrong.

Another difficulty is that, although adoption for same-sex couples has been legal for ten years, it is still very difficult to actually get through the process successfully. In fact, according to an article from last winter, most gay couples who wish to start a family are forced to find a surrogate mother if they are to stand a chance: ”The day we live as we learn when it comes to same-sex couples, then we are believable. But in Sweden we have a legislation that says one thing and a social service that does something else.”

Back in 2009 there was a heated debate between supporters of gay rights and conservative voices. Most of them had their origins in quoting bible references, with the message that anything other than man and woman is deeply unnatual. One example that stands out tries to turn the convention written by the United Nations in a way that suggest they are in fact opposed to this legislation.

 

When searching for opinions on the internet now, it is so much easier to find those who support same-sex marriages. Open letters, forum threads and countless blogs or webpages dedicated to equality between genders and sexual orientation.

In fact, the first same-sex couple to get married in Sweden back in 2009 where wed by none other than the former leader of the Swedish Green Party, Maria Wetterstrand. The two men where both politicians from the same party, and wanted to make a political statement by having the ceremony on the very first day. The quote at the top is from them.

 

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We are all happy that everyone in Sweden who love each other now will be able to get married. And it is of joy to me to be here at this new era in Sweden.

 Maria Wetterstrand


All quotes in this post are translated from Swedish to English by me, in order to show the Swedish opinion over the the years. Each page where I have found these Swedish quotes are linked within the text in case someone wishes to look them up.