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Marriage

Marriage

According to the Danish Marriage Act, marriage is eligible to all individuals over the age of 18 and is possible for both hetero- and homosexual couples (article 1). Two systems of marriage are available for all citizens: either a registry-office wedding through the municipality or a church wedding through the Folkekirke (literally; the Danish People’s Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark). Additionally, the individual preacher of other registered religious communities can acquire marriage licenses through the Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs. Since April 2017 the preachers seeking to acquire a wedding warrant must complete a two-day course on “Danish family law, freedom and democracy” paid by the participant at the cost of around 860 EUR. Depending on the size of the religious community and the number of weddings it performs, the warrant can either be permanent or given on an ad hoc basis from wedding to wedding (The Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs).

Same-sex marriages

The 15th of June 2012, a number of amendments to the Marriage Act granting same-sex couples equal status to that of heterosexual couples in relation to marriage became effective. Hereby the 1989 arrangement of ‘registered partnership’ that had granted same-sex couple the option to get a civic (but not ecclesiastical) registration of their union was dissolved (The Ministry of Social Affairs and the Elderly, “Registreret partnerskab” (Registered partnership).

A new ritual was created for same-sex marriages, the primary change being changing the words of ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ to ‘spouse’ (The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark n.y.). The individual priest can choose on theological grounds not to wed same-sex couples and the local dean will in that case have to find a priest that is willing. This seeks to both ensure the right of same-sex couples to have a church wedding and the freedom of the individual priests to practice according to their own beliefs.

The debate in Parliament surrounding the decision to ‘force’ the Folkekirke to perform same-sex weddings was primarily semantic. Only a minority of Christian-based and conservative parties wanted to replace the word ‘marriage’ with ‘life communion’ regarding same-sex couples (Minister for Social Affairs and Integration 2012). The argument for this distinction was to secure equal footing between same-sex couples and heterosexual couples legally, while reserving ‘marriage’ as an ecclesiastical institution for the union of a man and a woman. This was, however, not passed, but the individual priest’s right to deny wedding same-sex couples was passed unanimously (The Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs 2012).

Minority religious communities

As described above, preachers of other recognised religious communities can apply for a wedding warrant in order to be able to perform legally binding marriages. When this warrant is not acquired, couples of religious minority religion can obtain a civic marriage and a religious blessing (The Ministry of Eccelsiastical Affairs).

Literature
- The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark (n.y.), “Vielse af par af samme køn” (The wedding of same-sex couples),
- The Marriage Act, LBK no. 771, 7th of August 2019,
- Minister for Social Affairs and Integration (2012), BTL 106 “Betænkning over forslag til lov om ændring af lov om ægteskabets indgåelse og opløsning, lov om ægteskabets retsvirkninger og retsplejeloven og om ophævelse af lov om registreret partnerskab” (white paper on the motion on the bill to change the Act on Entering of Marriage and Dissolution, Act on the Legal Effect of the Marriage and the Administration of Justice Act and on the dissolution of the Act on Registered Partnership),
- The Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs (2012), “Bredt flertal i Folketinget: ja til homoseksuelle ægteskaber” (A wide majority in Parliament: yes to same-sex marriages), accessed 17th of January 2022,
- The Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs, “Ansøgning om vielsesbemyndigelse – Andre trossamfund” (Application on wedding warrant – Other religious communities),
- The Ministry of Eccelsiastical Affairs, “Vielse” (Wedding),
- The Ministry of Social Affairs and the Elderly, “Registreret partnerskab” (Registered partnership),
- University College of Copenhagen (2022), “Familieret, frihed og folkestyre” (Family law, freedom and democracy).

D 10 May 2022    AKaroline Dige

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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