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social sciences

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Although foster-care regulations favor opposite-gender foster parents, same-sex couples may be selected to serve as foster parents if the child welfare services find that this would be in the best interests of the child involved.

To be able to register as partners, at least one of the parties must be a Norwegian citizen, and one or both of them must be resident in Norway. Citizenship of Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Finland, and the Netherlands qualifies on an equal footing with Norwegian citizenship. The couple must also have lived together for at least one year prior to registering.

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To dissolve the partnership legally there are also necessary conditions, including making an official declaration of separation and issuing a release of financial responsibilities to each other.

Although the Partnership Act does not confer a right to a religious blessing by the state church, many priests do perform blessings for same-sex couples entering into registered partnerships.

Equal Marriage

In November 2004 a bill proposed by the Socialist Left Party was introduced to make the current marriage laws gender neutral. The proposed bill was rejected by the Norwegian Parliament, but a public-opinion poll conducted in 2007 by Synovate MMI (one of Norway's largest market research companies) concluded that 61% of Norwegians are in support of gender-neutral marriage laws.

Reflecting this sentiment, on June 11, 2008, the Norwegian Parliament replaced the partnership act with a new marriage law that allows homosexuals to marry and adopt children and permits lesbians to be artificially inseminated.

Although the Christian Democrats and the far-right Progress Party opposed the legislation, it was supported by the three parties that comprise the governing left-of-center coalition and by some individual members of the Conservative and Liberal parties. After a heated debate, the legislation was approved by a vote of 84 to 41.

When the new marriage law takes effect at the end of 2008 or the beginning of 2009, Norway will become the sixth country to grant homosexuals the right to marry on an equal footing with heterosexuals.

It has been estimated that about 150 same-sex couples registered their partnerships each year. It is expected that the same number is likely to marry.

Openly Gay Head of State

On January 4, 2002, the then-Norwegian Finance Minister Per-Kristian Foss entered into a registered partnership with his long-term partner Jan Erik Knarbakk, a top manager in the Schibsted media conglomerate, becoming the first member of a Norwegian government to enter into a binding homosexual partnership. The two men have often been described in the news media as being among Norway's most powerful couples.

Foss then became the first openly gay head of state on January 25, 2002, when he was temporarily installed as acting prime minister when the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister (who is second in the line of succession) were both out of the country.

The Church of Norway and Gay Clergy

In November 2007, the General Synod of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Norway voted to permit the ordination of gay and lesbian priests in partnerships. The vote overturned regulations made in 1995 and 1997 that permitted those in registered same-sex partnerships to hold lay positions, but prohibited non-celibate homosexuals to be ordained as clergy.

The decision in effect ratified the controversial 2000 appointment of Jene Torstein Olsen, the first openly gay clergyman in a partnership hired to preach in the Church of Norway.

Following sharp and prolonged debate the Synod revised its canons, stating that ecclesial bodies responsible for clergy appointments may either appoint, or not appoint, persons living in same-sex partnership, without being in breach of Norwegian law.

In a statement released by its press office, the Church of Norway explained that while the Synod "confirms that there is still a basis in the church in support of not ordaining, appointing, or granting an episcopal letter of recommendation" to gay clergy, there was not the "same degree of consensus" on this point as in prior years. Granting a "local option" recognized the "existing reality" that the authority to ordain clergy lay not with General Synod but with "the relevant bishops."

Although there is broad agreement in the Church of Norway on the usefulness of registered partnerships as a legal framework for homosexual persons living together, attitudes in the Church are deeply divided on the ethical issue of homosexuality itself. Responses to the vote were mixed and reflected the sharp divide within the Church, with some bishops declaring that the vote would "create peace in the church and security for homosexual clergy," while others believed the vote would be a "splitting factor" and "lead to many feeling homeless in the church."

The new marriage law, adopted in 2008, gives religious institutions the right to refuse to marry same-sex couples, but it is belived that many members of the clergy will agree to officiate at same-sex weddings.

Significant Norwegian GLBTQ Cultural Figures

One of the most prominent figures in early Norwegian gay history is Christian VII (1749-1808), King of Denmark and Norway from 1766 until his death. Soon after his marriage in 1766 to Caroline Mathilde, daughter of Frederick, Prince of Wales, he apparently abandoned his conjugal duties and indulged in various debaucheries, including sex with younger men. He publicly declared that he could not love Caroline Mathilde, because it was "unfashionable to love one's wife."

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