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].