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Iceland parliament approves same-sex marriage legislation

The Icelandic Althingi [official website, in Icelandic] on Friday unanimously passed legislation [text, in Icelandic] legalizing same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive]. The legislation would end the system of registered partnerships that has been in place in Iceland since 1996, replacing it with a gender-neutral marriage law. Additionally, the marriage law contains a religious exception, allowing the Church of Iceland [church website, in Icelandic] to decline to perform marriages between same-sex couples. The church has yet to announce a position [Reuters report] on the legislation. The law must now be signed by President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson [official website], who is reported to be in favor of the law change [OT report]. If Olafur fails to sign the bill, it will become effective pending a referendum. Olafur has exercised this constitutional authority [constitution text] twice before, becoming the first president to do so in 2004. The legislation was introduced March 23 by the coalition government of Iceland, headed by Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir [official website] and supported by the opposition Progress Party [party website, in Icelandic]. The legislation will take effect June 27.

Johanna was elected prime minister [Guardian report] of Iceland in April 2009, becoming the world's first openly gay head of government. Additionally, the Althingi approved adoption rights by same-sex couples in 2006. Iceland is the seventh European country to legalize same-sex marriage. In May, Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva [official website, in Portuguese] signed a bill [JURIST report] that legalizes same-sex marriage but stops short of allowing same-sex couples to adopt. The bill was approved [JURIST report] by the Portuguese Parliament [official website, in Portuguese] in January and found to be constitutional by the Constitutional Court [official website, in Portuguese] in April. Same-sex marriage is also recognized in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Norway [JURIST reports], while several other countries, including the UK, France and Germany, recognize civil unions between same-sex partners. Same-sex marriage has also been recognized nationwide in Canada and South Africa, and in jurisdictions in Mexico and the US [JURIST reports].

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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