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SSM in Norway:

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.

Vanceone:
Too bad, really. When does Polygamy and incest get legalized there? I predict within ten years.


Actually, I'm more curious as to what will happen when the local Mosque starts attacking gays. What will the leftists do? One branch of their strategy to attack regular morals (Gay rights activists) under assault from another (the rights of Islam). Should be fun!
6.11.2008 2:02pm
krs:
As I'm scrolling through the posts and see "SSM," my first thought is that I'm reading "SSRN," then "S&M," and only after a second or 2 does my brain understand that you're talking about same-sex marriage.
6.11.2008 2:16pm
rbj:
Norway's doing it the right way -- through the legislative/political process, not via a new interpretation of an old constitution. Now all they need to do is get rid of that pesky "statechurch"
6.11.2008 2:16pm
Anon1ms (mail):
I would think that this would be a good test for the whole concept of SSM -- we can sit back and watch Norway and see who's more correct, those who believe that gay marriages will lead to all kinds of bad things for society in general or those who think that it will not be disruptive to any real degree.
6.11.2008 2:36pm
Al Maviva (mail):
Yeah, all that's good and well, VanceOne, but I wouldn't say that anywhere near Canada.
6.11.2008 2:38pm
nm:
Yet another country finally recognising what we knew all along (gay and lesbian people are people, too). They have the same hopes and dreams, as anyone else. Finally, Norway joins the ranks of the other socially advanced countries like the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, and Canada. Interestingly enough, South Africa, while still a developing nation, also allows gender neutral marriage. I think their terrible experience of apartheid has let them see hate and discrimination in an enlightened way. Congratulations to Norway! Now, let's hope the other EU countries can keep up with Norway.
6.11.2008 2:43pm
Bad (mail) (www):
"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."

Uh, it'd be nice to recognize here that different countries have, well different systems of government. Not of all of them even CAN be prompted by courts in the way they can in the U.S.
6.11.2008 3:21pm
Zeno (www):
No matter what side of the issue you come down on, this is a very hands-on approach for the government to take. This new set of laws isn't establishing that there was always a marriage and adoption right and that exclusion of gays was incorrect. It does not address the past behavior but lays down new guidelines for how things will be done in the future. I guess it's telling that the European gay rights debate is very rarely phrased in terms of "rights" the way the American debate is.
6.11.2008 3:28pm
A.W. (mail):
Well, good for them. It looks like they are going about it the right way, democratically and not the wrong way, based on constitutional provisions that were not meant to have that result.

And so I don't think its fair to say that Polygamy, etc. will follow. The people can make distinctions that the courts typically can't.
6.11.2008 3:30pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):

Yet another country finally recognising what we knew all along (gay and lesbian people are people, too).


Can you provide a quote or link to someone claiming that gays and lesbians are not, in fact, people?
6.11.2008 3:33pm
Jiminy (mail):
The polygamy slippery slope was made when people were against miscegenation as well. I don't see the sky falling here in Mass...
6.11.2008 3:36pm
Tax Lawyer:
It seems that Bruce's summary (quoted in the block text) conlficts with his translation of the law (in the flush text). In the former, he states that gays will have a right to marriage in the state church. His translation (which, as a Danish speaker, I can safely say is accurate) says something quite different -- hat the Church henceforth may -- but need not -- conduct such marriages.

Theis points out why state churches are such bad ideas. It may be that Norway's state church has wanted to perform gay marriages for some time, but has been forbidden to do so without governmental authorization. On the other hand, if the law were to force the church to perform such marriages against its will (as Bawser's summary implied it would), that would be just as odious.
6.11.2008 3:46pm
CJColucci:
I always wondered about Garrison Keillor's Norweigian bachelor farmers. Maybe they won't be so lonely anymore.
6.11.2008 3:52pm
darelf:
"
Yet another country finally recognising what we knew all along (gay and lesbian people are people, too). "

You seem to indicate that if you don't want to get married then you are not a person. That seems a bit harsh.

What if you are celibate by choice? ( Something I'm fairly certain isn't even countenanced on this blog, but nevertheless exists in the real world ) Are you no longer a person?

What if you want a long-term sexual relationship with one partner but do not ever want to get married? Do you no longer qualify for "personhood"?

SSM topics bring out the most ridiculous statements in the history of the world.
6.11.2008 4:17pm
Pender:

I would think that this would be a good test for the whole concept of SSM -- we can sit back and watch Norway and see who's more correct, those who believe that gay marriages will lead to all kinds of bad things for society in general or those who think that it will not be disruptive to any real degree.

There's really no need to sit back and wait when Massachusetts has had marriage equality for five years now and Canada for three years (with some provinces having had it for up to five years).

Massachusetts and Canada are both doing great. How much longer do you think we have to wait?
6.11.2008 4:25pm
Pender:
darelf wrote:


You seem to indicate that if you don't want to get married then you are not a person. That seems a bit harsh.

Obviously that's wrong; what he meant -- and what was quite clear from his post -- was that the right to marry belongs to all consenting adult people regardless of whether they choose to exercise the right.
6.11.2008 4:27pm
wm13:
In how many of those six countries is it allowed to criticize the law in question? (Given what I know of "hate speech" laws in Europe and Canada, I suspect the answer is zero, but I'm curious.)
6.11.2008 5:17pm
Seamus (mail):
*Homofile skal ha samme rett til å inngå ekteskap som heterofile. [Homosexuals will have the same right to marry as heterosexuals.]

I was under the impression that homosexuals already had the same right to marry as did heterosexuals. Cole Porter, for one, did it. John Maynard Keynes did it. (Even educated fleas did it.)
6.11.2008 5:18pm
L.A. Brave:
As an atheist, sometimes I think the US would be better off with a state church.

It is much easier for people to write off a government program as bullshit. In fact, this is what has happened to the state religions of Europe.

However, in America, religions were left to harness market forces. As a result they have had to expand their customer bases in creative fashion, creating much more slick and compelling products than a state-based religion ever could.
6.11.2008 5:42pm
D Palmer (mail):
Vanceone,

It seems unlikely to me that ploygamy or incest are likely to ever be legal.

Personally, I think either one is a personal choice between two (or in the case of polygamy 3 or more) individuals. As long as they are all adults and mentally competent, I could not care less and our society is not really improved by preventing them from doing what they want to do.

That said, the number of homosexuals is large, and as the taboos against homosexuality have fallen and homosexuality has begun to be seen as an an innate attribute and not a "lifestyle choice", they have been able to secure rights that others have that have been denied them simply because they are sexually attracted to their own gender.

However, I suspect that the number of people who want multiple spouses or to marry a sibling or 1st cousin is small and their voices will never be sufficient to overcome the cultural barriers that exist in the US against such behavior.
6.11.2008 5:57pm
Bob in SeaTac (mail):
That said, the number of homosexuals is large, and
as the taboos against homosexuality have fallen and
homosexuality has begun to be seen as an an innate
attribute and not a "lifestyle choice", they have been
able to secure rights that others have that have been
denied them simply because they are sexually attracted
to their own gender.

However, I suspect that the number of people who want
multiple spouses or to marry a sibling or 1st cousin
is small and their voices will never be sufficient to
overcome the cultural barriers that exist in the US
against such behavior.

As I understand from my readings, the percentage of homosexuals in the US population is from 2 to 6%, depending upon the sex (women are a higher self reporting percent) of the individual and the study done. I would imagine a study asking about polygamy and another asking about marrying a sibling or first cousin would end up with numbers in that range, so stating the number of homosexuals as large, and the polygamy or first cousin/sibling group as small is probably not correct.
6.11.2008 7:10pm
martinned (mail) (www):
L.S.,

@Zeno: Presumably, phrasing the discussion in terms of rights is necessary in order to put it in front of a judge. Over here, in the Netherlands (first place in the world with SSM), it is difficult to see how a judge could mandate gay marriage, even if the court found a treaty violation. (The courts are forbidden from entering into the constitutionality of laws.) If a statute violates a treaty that has direct effect, the statute cannot be applied, but how does that help a gay couple wanting to get married? They would have to show that they derive their right to get married directly from the treaty, and that would be a tough one for any treaty I know of. No court would ever mandate that parliament pass SSM legislation, since that would violate the principle of separation of powers, as would any attempt by the courts to "rewrite" the statute.

As a result, the debate in parliament here, as in Norway, didn't have to be about anyone's rights, but instead it was about what was the right thing to do.
6.11.2008 7:33pm
Bob Van Burkleo (mail):
I would think that this would be a good test for the whole concept of SSM -- we can sit back and watch Norway and see who's more correct, those who believe that gay marriages will lead to all kinds of bad things for society in general or those who think that it will not be disruptive to any real degree.

Eurostat.com allows us to see what effect acknowledging same gender couples does - do a comparison of marriage rates in 1993 (before the start of state recognitions of same gender married couples) and the latest data. You find that all of the states save one with increased rates are ones that have acknowledge same gender couples.

Doesn't say that it is because of this, merely shows it does not have the marriage squashing effects that some opponents claim.

Glad to see another nation just doing the obvious - in a few years all these 'marriage lite' solution states are coming up with for some of their marriages will just be rolled one contract too.
6.11.2008 7:43pm
Grange95 (mail):
Wow, first post out of the gate and we already have the "polygamy and incest" bogeymen popping up ... Funny thing is, I know many gay people including several gay couples, but I have never encountered anyone in a polygamous or incestuous relationship, or even anyone who indicated a desire for such a relationship. There might be good arguments against gay marriage, but please, let's retire the whole sky-is-falling, "dogs and cats sleeping together" hysteria from serious discussion of this issue.
6.11.2008 11:27pm
Randy R. (mail):
SEamus: "I was under the impression that homosexuals already had the same right to marry as did heterosexuals. Cole Porter, for one, did it. John Maynard Keynes did it. (Even educated fleas did it.)"

Yes, you are correct. Gays always had the right to marry, but heteros such as yourself never had the right to marry people of the same sex. So now, in California and Massachusetts, your rights have been expanded to marry people of the same sex. Same for gays.

Aren't you proud?
6.11.2008 11:51pm
Grover Gardner (mail):

Cole Porter, for one, did it.


Talk about redefining "marriage"!
6.12.2008 1:35am
Splunge:
Good for Norway. The right way to do it. Good luck and bon voyage to them.

Personally, I think the result of the whole experiment will be to define marriage down, until it becomes little more than "going steady," a purely nominal and decorative kind of label, with no important legal or social consequences.

But that's fine, that's where we're going anyway for any number of reasons.
6.12.2008 3:04am
Bama 1L:
Now, let's hope the other EU countries can keep up with Norway.

Norway's not in the European Union, although it is part of the European Economic Area.
6.12.2008 6:22am
Smallholder (mail) (www):
Bob in Seatac:

You imagine that 2 to 6 percent of people want to marry a sibling (or more than one)?

Who are you hanging with?
6.12.2008 8:32am
Randy R. (mail):
And even if gays are only 2 to 6 percent of the population, only a fraction of them actually will get married. so according to Bob, there are many many more people wanting to marry a sibling or engage in polygamy than there are gays getting married.
6.12.2008 10:30am
D Palmer (mail):
I'm not quite sure what Bob was saying either.

2%-6% is 6-18 million people. Which is, as I said, a large number.

It seems unlikely to me that even added together, the number of people in the US who would desire to marry a sibling or first cousin or to enter into a plural marriage hits 7 figures.
6.12.2008 12:26pm