New legislation on same-sex marriage approved by the Norwegian parliament yesterday also extends parenting rights for gay and lesbian couples.

The new law will amend the definition of civil marriage in Norway to make it gender neutral.

It will replace a 1993 law that gave same-sex couples the right to enter into civil unions.

Couples with a pre-registered civil partnership will be able to convert it into marriage.

The new legislation also increases parental rights, and makes it easier for lesbians to undergo the same in vitro fertilisation treatment available to heterosexual couples.

A lesbian who is married to another women who becomes pregnant through IVF will have all the rights of parenthood “from the moment of conception.”

In cases of adoption, both partners, gay or lesbian, would have complete joint parenting rights.

Anniken Huifeldt, the minister for Family Issues, called the bill an historic step towards equality.

The law was backed by the Labour Party, the Centre Party and the Socialist Left Party.

Some members of the Conservatives and Liberals also voted for the law.

However, the law was criticised and voted against by opposition Christian Democrats and the Progress Party.

Dagfinn Hoybraten, leader of the Christian Democrat party, called the bill “a big experiment.”

He stated that while his party was against discrimination, it wanted to protect the rights of children.

“We are now creating a system where the father is reduced to a sperm sample,” said Ulf Erik Knudsen, a member of the far-right, reports AFP.

Under the new legislation, the Church of Norway will also be allowed (but not compelled) to bless same-sex marriages.

About 85 percent of Norway’s 4.7 million people are registered as members of the state Lutheran Church of Norway, although far fewer are active.

Norway joins Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, South Africa and Canada in granting gay people full marriage rights.