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6 out of 10 Swedes back gay church marriage

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23:45 CEST+02:00
In the week after the Swedish Church met to discuss the issue of gay marriage, Göteborgs Posten set the bells ringing by announcing that 6 out of 10 Swedes believe that "homosexuals ought to be able to get married in church".

Since 1995 gay couples living together in Sweden have been able to declare their commitment to each other through a decidedly unromantic-sounding 'registered partnership' and around 1,700 men and 1,100 women are living in such a relationship today.

But Sören Andersson, chairman of the National Association for Equal Sexual Rights, said he believes that GP's survey results demonstrate increasing support for going the whole hog and legalising gay marriage.

"A couple of years ago 7 out of 10 Swedes answered that homosexual couples ought to be able to marry," he said. "This new research specifically refers to marriage in church but the figures are still almost as high."

Nevertheless, there were no surprises in the breakdown of GP's results, which confirmed the stereotypical attitudes towards such matters.

People living in cities were considerably keener to be flinging rainbow confetti than country-dwellers, while women were more positive than men. "But the biggest and clearest difference," said GP, "was between the generations."

In the 15-29 age group 75% said they think that homosexuals ought to be able to marry in church, but in the oldest group, 65 and over, this fell to just over 30%. Interestingly, members of the Swedish church were marginally more in favour of gay marriage than the average, while over 60% of those from other religions were against it.

George Svéd of HomO, the sexual discrimination ombudsman, called on the church to take the results seriously:

"The fact that there is such a clear difference between the generations shows that it could be time for the church to reconsider its position."

But the church - in the form of Archbishop K G Hammar - appeared to be some way from giving its blessing.

"We must learn to accept the differences," he said. "Hetero and homo is not the same. As a church we do not benefit from calling them the same."

He may have some support among his flock. In April parliament decided that it would investigate the issue of gay marriage and since then almost 40,000 people have registered their opposition in what appears to be a well-organised campaign.

Last week Svenska Dagbladet spoke to Tasso Stafilidis, the Left Party's member of the parliamentary committee looking into the issue and a staunch supporter of reform. He has been inundated with letters and email urging him to say no to "this high-risk experiment which strikes at our children and young people".

"Every other letter contains quotes from the bible," he told the paper, adding that many are full of hatred towards him.

"That just spurs me on to work to get this legislation through as quickly as possible," he said.

Yvonne Andersson of the Christian Democrats, who is opposed to gay marriage, is another member of the committee. She has also received thousands of letters - although hers tend to be rather more encouraging.

"I've never been involved in anything which has had a reaction like this," she told SvD.

"People have thanked me for daring to stand up for a viewpoint which isn't in line with the prevailing trends."

The matter is now in the hands of the justice department, which is expected to present the legal issues to the parliamentary committee.

The bells in the distance are getting louder - but whether they are wedding bells or alarm bells depends upon which side of the aisle you're sitting on.

Sources: Svenska Dagbladet, Göteborgs Posten

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