The bishops of Norway’s state church have ruled that there will be no weddings in church for gay and lesbian couples.

The church counts nearly 85 percent of Norway’s 4.7 million people as members.

From January same-sex marriage will be legal in Norway.

The bishops of the Church of Norway, a Lutheran denomination, said that pastors may say prayers for married gay and lesbian couples but not bless their relationships.

Civil marriage in church was also rejected by the bishops.

In November 2007 the outright ban on clergy in same-sex relationships was lifted. However, each bishop decides whether or not to employ them.
While there is broad agreement in the Church of Norway on the usefulness of registered partnership as a legal framework for homosexual people living together, attitudes in the church are deeply divided on the ethical issue of homosexuality as such.

New legislation on same-sex marriage approved by the Norwegian parliament in June went further, amending the definition of civil marriage in Norway to make it gender neutral and extending parenting rights for gay and lesbian couples.

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.

Under the new legislation, which comes into force in January, the Church of Norway was allowed, but not compelled, to bless same-sex marriages.

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.

Norway, which is not a member of the EU, joins Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, South Africa and Canada in granting gay people full marriage rights.