Today the Norwegian parliament passed a bill granting gay couples full marriage rights. Previously, Norwegian partners were entitled to enter domestic partnerships that withheld certain rights. Bruce Bawer watched the debate in parliament and sent this dispatch just before the vote:
Today Tor André and I have been sitting at home watching online the final debates in the Norwegian Parliament before they vote on full gay marriage. Everybody knows that the vote will be for gay marriage, so the debate is a formality. Nonetheless it has been gripping and at times extremely moving.
As some of you know, we already have gay partnership in Norway, which gives gay couples all the rights of marriage except for the word itself, adoption rights, and the right to a marriage in the state church. The new law will give us all those things.
Kim Friele, a now elderly lesbian who was the very first person in Norway to come out of the closet and who has made gay rights a lifetime cause, has been sitting in the Parliament gallery during the debates and the camera has cut to her now and then. It's remarkable to think of how far things have come in a lifetime, and inspiring to be reminded how much can be accomplished in a relatively short time (historically speaking) by a movement for justice that begins with only a small group of extraordinarily brave and farsighted people. (Yes, I'm thinking of you, Frank Kameny.)
Bruce also sends along a helpful summary of the Norwegian ”fellesekteskapsloven” – the new common marriage law, as it's called. The summary appeared in today’s issue of the newspaper VG. Bruce's translation is in brackets:
*Homofile skal ha samme rett til å inngå ekteskap som heterofile. [Homosexuals will have the same right to marry as heterosexuals.]
*Homofile ektepar vil få mulighet til å bli vurdert som adoptivforeldre på linje med heterofile. [Homosexual couples will have the opportunity to be considered as adoptive parents along the same lines as heterosexual couples. Note: Until now, adoption by gay individuals was permitted, but not adoption by same-sex couples.]
*Lesbiske par skal ha samme mulighet til å bli vurdert for assistert befruktning på samme måte som heterofile. [Lesbian couples will have the same opportunity to be considered for artificial insemination as heterosexuals. Note: Until now this was illegal.]
*Kirken skal ha rett, men ikke plikt til å vie homofile par. [The church will have the right but not the obligation to marry homosexual couples. Note: This means that individual clergy have the right to refuse to perform same-sex marriages.]
*De som ønsker det, kan få omgjort partnerskap til ekteskap. De som ikke ønsker det, får beholde sin status som registrerte partnere. Det vil ikke være mulig å inngå partnerskap etter at loven trer i kraft. [Those who wish it can have their partnership upgraded to marriage. Those who don't, can keep their status as registered partners. It will not be possible to enter into partnership after the law takes force.]
Norway becomes the sixth country to grant full marriage rights to same-sex couples. Four of the six have done so entirely through legislative action, without prompting from courts.