LGBT rights in Sweden

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LGBT rights in Sweden
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Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1944,
age of consent equalized in 1972
Gender identity/expression -
Recognition of
Registered partnerships from 1995–2009*
Same-sex marriage since 2009
*existing partnerships remain valid, but no new partnerships accepted
Adoption Gays and lesbians are allowed to adopt [1]
Military service Gays and lesbians are allowed to serve openly
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation and gender identity/expression protections (see below)

Sweden became the first country in the world to remove homosexuality as an illness and is considered to be one of the most gay-friendly countries in Europe and possibly the world when it comes to laws surrounding homosexuality.[2] Due to the strong sense of secularism dominating in most of the country and government, Sweden today is seen as a campaigner of gay rights. The Swedish parliament voted to make same-sex marriages fully legal from May 1, 2009, with the votes 261 to 22, with the 22 votes representing some, but not all, members of the Christian Democrats.[3]

Former laws against homosexuality

Homosexuality was legalised in 1944, the age of consent at the time after 1944 was 18. In 1987, a law against sex in gay saunas and prostitution was created to mitigate the spread of HIV.[4] It was repealed in 2004.[5] In 1972, Sweden becomes the first country in the world to allow transsexuals to legally change their sex, and provides free hormone therapy, equal age of consent set at 15. In 1979, a number of people called in sick with a case of "being homosexual," in protest of homosexuality being classified as an illness. This was followed by an activist occupation of the main office of the National Board of Health and Welfare. Within a few months, Sweden became the first country in the world to remove homosexuality as an illness.[6] Transvestism was declassified as an illness in 2008.[7]

Recognition of same-sex relationships

Registered partnership

It has been possible for same-sex couples to register their partnership since 1995. These partnerships had all the rights of marriages except "as provided by sections 3-4" of the law. As well, all provisions of a stature or any other legislation related to marriage or spouses apply to registered partnerships and partners, except as under sections 3-4.[8]

As of May 2009, new registered partnerships are not being accepted due to same-sex marriage being legalized. The status of existing partnerships is not affected, except that they can be changed to marriage status under the law if desired.

Same-sex marriage

Effective 1 May 2009, marriage between two persons of the same sex has been legal in Sweden after a government report published in March 2007, written by former Chancellor of Justice Hans Regner, proposing that marriage be extended to same-sex couples.[9]

The former Social Democratic government appointed a commission to investigate the possibilities of same-sex marriages in Sweden. In 2008, the Riksdag voted on a change in the law concerning marriages. As of 2008, the parties in the Riksdag and their opinions of same-sex marriages (presented in order of size in the Riksdag):

The current Swedish cabinet government consists of the Moderate Party, the Centre Party, the Liberal People's Party & the Christian Democratic Party.

Party In favour Seats in the Riksdag Position
Yes 130 Opposition
Yes 97 Leader of the government
Yes 29 Coalition partner in the government
Yes 28 Coalition partner in the government
No 24 Coalition partner in the government
Yes 22 Opposition
Yes 19 Opposition

Vote for same-sex marriage

  • Parliament of Sweden (Civil marriages, 349 seats)
Final Verdict Member of Parliament
  • 261
  • 22
  • 16
  • 50
  • Church of Sweden (Weddings, 249 seats)
Final Verdict Voting members
  • 176
  • 62
  • 11
  • 0
  • Same-sex marriages in Sweden have been officially recognized since 1 May 2009, following the adoption of a new, gender-neutral law on marriage by the Swedish parliament on 1 April 2009,[10]
  • On 22 October 2009, the assembly of the Church of Sweden, voted strongly in favour of giving its blessing to homosexual couples,.[11], including the use of the term marriage, äktenskap ("matrimony"). The new law was introduced on November 1, 2009.

Adoption and family planning

Since February 1, 2003, LGBT people in a registered partnership/Marriage have the same adoption rights as married couples (this also includes single LGBT persons to adopt). With regards to foreign adoptions, the Ministry of Justice states; "As regards adoption from abroad, it is important that we are sensitive and aware that those countries with which Sweden cooperates often hold a different view on homosexual people and homosexual parenthood. Cooperation regarding inter-country adoptions must be based on trust. This means that the limitations and terms that the countries of origin lay down must be complied with." [12]

In 2005, a new law was passed allowing lesbian couples to be treated for assisted insemination in public hospitals.[13]

Military service

Homosexuals are not banned from military service. The Swedish Armed Forces actively work for an environment where LGBT persons do not feel it to be necessary to hide their orientation.[14]

Transgender rights

The possibility to change legal gender in Sweden, either through full surgery or partial surgery and hormonal treatment, has been available since 1972 provided one meets several criteria. One has to be a Swedish citizen and 18 years old, unmarried, sterilized and having lived for two years as the opposite gender.[15] The law was re-evaluated in 2007, proposing removals of the requirements to be a Swedish citizen, unmarried and sterilized, and presented to the Christian Democrat minister for Health and Social Affairs.[16] The Swedish Ombudsman Against Discrimination (DO) and the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights have inquired about the future of the proposed new law. According to the Department for Health and Social Affairs the proposal is still being evaluated, but is considered too flawed to be the basis of a new law.[17]

Discrimination protections

The Swedish Constitution bans discrimination on grounds of "sexual orientation".[18] In 1987 discrimination against gay men and lesbians was included in the section of the penal code which deals with discrimination on grounds of race, etc. In 2008 Transgender Identity or expression was added to a new unified discrimination code which came into force January 1, 2009.[19][20] Since 2002 the portal section of the constitution bans discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

Until 2009 the Swedish Ombudsman against Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation (Ombudsmannen mot diskriminering på grund av sexuell läggning), normally referred to as HomO, was the Swedish office of the ombudsman against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. The Ombudsman against Discrimination on grounds of Sexual Orientation ceased to exist on 1 January 2009; the Ombudsman was merged with the other Ombudsmen against discrimination into a new body: the Swedish Equality Ombudsman. The previously existing acts against discrimination were also replaced with a new Discrimination Act.[21]

The term HomO was used both to refer to the office and the title of its government-appointed acting head; the last HomO was Hans Ytterberg. The HomO investigated grievances of individuals and files class action suits on their behalf, for example a successful action against a restaurant owner in Stockholm who had harassed a lesbian couple. The HomO office was key in taking a number of initiatives of its own and submitting parliamentary proposals, such as the gender neutral marriage act.

Blood donation issues

In the Autumn of 2008, the National Board of Health and Welfare proposed that men who have sex with men should become eligible to donate blood, but only after a six month quarantine period after sexual intercourse. An earlier proposition in 2006 to allow MSMs to donate blood was rejected.[22] From 1 March 2010, men who have sex with men are allowed to donate blood, after one year of abstaining from sex.[23]

Public opinion

Sweden is generally very gay-friendly with a whole raft of legislation protecting gay and lesbian rights including anti-discrimination law and a Gender neutral Marriage legislation (Same-sex marriage is allowed). A 2006 European Union member poll showed 71% of Swedes support same sex marriage.[2]

LGBT rights movement in Sweden

The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) is one of the world’s oldest LGBT organizations. It was founded in October 1950 as a Swedish branch of The Danish Federation of 1948. In April 1952, RFSL adopted its current name and declared itself as an independent organization. It currently has 28 branches throughout Sweden, from Piteå in the north to Malmö in the south, and has over 6,000 members.[24]

RFSL works for LGBT people through political lobbying, information dissemination, and the organization of social and support activities. Internationally, RFSL works with the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) and also collaborates with other LGBT organizations in neighboring countries.[24]

The federation operates counseling centers for both women and men in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. The counseling is intended for people who need to talk about coming out, sex, HIV/AIDS and other health issues, and relationships, as well as those who need assistance in their contact with the authorities and healthcare institutions, or who require legal assistance with, for example, asylum and wills.[24]

Several gay pride festivals are hosted in Sweden every year. Stockholm Pride is the biggest and oldest festival, and has been organized annually since 1998. In later years, pride festivals have been arranged in Gothenburg, Malmö and Uppsala, and local pride events are hosted in smaller communities.

Summary table

Introduction Date Year
Homosexuality legal Yes July 1 1944
Right to change legal gender Yes July 1 1972
Gays allowed to serve in the military Yes July 1 1976
Equal age of consent Yes July 1 1978
Homosexuality declassified as an illness Yes July 1 1979
Anti-discrimination laws in all areas, (incl. hate speech) Yes July 1 1987
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services Yes July 1 1987
Recognition of same-sex couples as de facto couples Yes January 1 1988
Recognition of same-sex couples as registered partnerships Yes January 1 1995
Anti-discrimination laws in employment Yes January 1 1999
Both joint and step adoption by same-sex couples Yes February 1 2003
Access to IVF for lesbians Yes July 1 2005
Transvetism declassified as an illness Yes January 1 2009
Anti-discrimination laws on transgender identity or expression Yes January 1 2009
Same-sex marriages (based on civil marriages) Yes May 1 2009
Blessings and marriages for gay couples in Church of Sweden Yes November 1 2009
MSMs allowed to donate blood Yes March 1 2010

See also


  1. "Sweden legalises gay adoption", BBC News, 2002-06-06. Retrieved on 2010-05-07. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Eight EU Countries Back Same-Sex Marriage. Angus Reid Global Monitor (24 December 2006). Retrieved on 2009-03-21.
  3. "Sweden allows same-sex marriage", BBC, 2 April 2009. Retrieved on 2009-04-03. 
  4. HBT-historia. RFSL. Retrieved on 2009-04-17.
  5. Ny smittskyddslag från och med 1 juli (SoU6). Sveriges Riksdag. Retrieved on 2009-04-17.
  6. (2001) MotstÃ¥nd. Bokförlaget DN. ISBN 9789175883670. 
  7. Associated Press (20 November 2008). Sweden: SM, Fetishes Not Mental illnesses. 365Gay. Retrieved on 2009-04-04.
  8. Registration of Partnerships,
  9. Inquiry gives green light to gay marriage
  10. Gays Win Marriage Rights Sveriges Radio English, 1 April 2009
  12. Government Offices of Sweden. "Homosexual partnership and adoption",, (accessed on 6/5/2007).
  13. Ja till lesbisk insemination. Svenska Dagbladet (3 June 2005). Retrieved on 2009-03-22.
  15. Lagen om könsbyte ska utredas. RFSU (5 March 2007). Retrieved on 2007-06-24.
  16. TT (19 March 2007). Kritiserat lagförslag om könsbyte. Dagens Nyheter. Retrieved on 2009-06-24.
  17. Hannes Delling (13 June 2009). Li tvingas skilja sig för att få byta kön. Svenska Dagbladet. Retrieved on 2009-06-24.
  18. Regeringsformen, 1 chapter, 2 paragraph
  19. [1] Swedish Code of Statutes SFS 2008:567 Discrimination Act Published 25 June 2008 issued on 5 June 2008
  20. HomO Legislation Page
  21. Swedish Code of Statutes SFS 2008:567 Discrimination Act Published 25 June 2008
  22. Förbud att ge blod kan hävas. Svenska Dagbladet (20 August 2008). Retrieved on 2009-03-21.
  23. Sweden to end ban on gay blood donors
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 Om RFSL in English. RFSL. Retrieved on 2009-05-01.

External links


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