Church marriages for same-sex couples imminent in Norway


Norway's twelve bishops unanimously voted to allow gay couples to marry in church, voting for the creation of a special liturgy on Friday. 

"This is a very important day for the church," said the praeses of the Norwegian Bishops conference, Bishop Helga Haugland Byfuglien.

Norway legalised gender neutral marriage in 2008, but churches were left free to develop their own liturgy to enable gay weddings to take place in churches. Until this point there had been no agreement on the liturgy.

The proposal needs to be approved by the synod which meets in April 2016 and pastors will retain the right to refuse to marry gay couples.

Last year, the synod rejected a similar proposal, however it is expected to pass, as the last church elections led to majority of pro same-sex marriage delegates.

After this election, the bishops scheduled a meeting to readdress the issue and on Friday decided to open the door to gay weddings.

"There are different perceptions of marriage among same sex couples both in the Norwegian Church and among the bishops. But we are keen to find a decision that could have a unifying effect," Byfuglien told NTB newswire.

Erna Solberg, Norway's Prime Minister, has previously shown support for same-sex marriage in the church, and told NRK network last year: "Personally, I believe that gays should be allowed to marry in church. This is the way I, as a church member, want the church to go."

Sturla Stålsett, a campaigner for same sex marriage in church in Norway, said "It is a historic breakthrough that a bishops' meeting unanimously recommends equal marriage in the church."