A one-person committee appointed by Sweden's government recommended Wednesday that same-sex couples be given all the rights of marriage, the Associated Press reported March 21.
While the country permits homosexual civil unions under legislation passed in 1994, same-sex marriage is not allowed.
"Two men or two women should be able to wed, and in the future be called spouses," said Hans Regner, who carried out the commission. "All the rules for heterosexual spouses will be applied also to homosexual couples."
Under the proposed legislation, same-sex couples already in civil unions would automatically be considered married. The new law still needs Parliamentary approval, but with homosexual "marriage" receiving widespread support in the country the measure is expected to pass.
While homosexual couples in civil unions have already been granted most of the same rights as married couples, a couple may only obtain a civil union if both are at least 18 years old. If given the right to legally marry, same-sex couples could request an exemption to the age requirement–currently only available to heterosexual couples — opening up the possibility of homosexual "marriage" involving minors, according to the AP.
The Roman Catholic Church in Sweden denounced the proposal. Church leader Per Samuelsson said marriage is a sacrament, and that the definition of marriage as a union of a man and a woman is shared by all world cultures and is part of "humanity's cultural inheritance," Sweden's The Local reported.
While the Lutheran Church of Sweden continued its support of same-sex couples in a statement, saying individual priests would be permitted to perform legally-binding ceremonies for homosexual couples, the Church said it would not support same-sex partnerships under the term "marriage," saying that term should be reserved for heterosexual couples.
The legislation would permit individual members of the clergy to refuse to perform same-sex ceremonies. Homosexual activists responded angrily to that proposal, calling it discriminatory.
"They are proposing that it should be possible to discriminate. Churches and religious groups are to be allowed to refuse, and we are critical of that," said Sören Andersson, chairman of the Swedish homosexual activist group RFSL.
"You can't pick and choose from Swedish law," he said.
A consultation process will begin now that Regner's report has been released. If passed, the law would make Sweden the sixth country in the world to recognize homosexual "marriage", after Canada, Belgium, The Netherlands, Spain and South Africa.