A new law passed today by the Danish parliament gives lesbian couples the same rights to artificial insemination in public hospitals as straight couples.

The legislation which also applies to single women, was passed by 86 politicians who voted for the amendment, against 82 politicians who either abstained or voted against.

The issue has divided parliament and political parties as it has been hotly debated over the last week.

Several members of the government decided to abstain, rather than enter the controversy by offering an opinion either way.

Denmark’s Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, was against the proposal, instead opting to have it only in private clinics were patients would pay.

He said: “As Prime Minister I have supported the Government’s proposal and am therefore disappointed that our bill was not passed.

“But it was important to reach a decision. The issue has been discussed for many years and we wouldn’t have gained anything from delaying a vote.”

Danish gay groups welcomed the law and said gay adoption rights are next on the agenda.

Denmark is noted for it’s liberal attitudes towards the gay community, being the first country to legalise same sex civil unions in 1989.