Updated

Denmark’s prime minister has announced that equal marriage laws may come into effect in the European country on 15 June this year.

At a press conference, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who took office in October last year, announced that gays would be allowed to marry in time for the summer, the Copenhagen Post reports.

She said: “We have looked at two laws that will provide the gay and lesbian community the opportunity to get married in the church and at city hall.

“The administration and I firmly believe that this is a natural step to take in a modern society like Denmark.

“The law will go into effect on June 15, so already this summer we’ll see the first gays and lesbians getting married in Danish churches.”

Denmark was the first country in the world to legalise same-sex unions, in 1989, and acts of homosexuality were decriminalised in 1933.

The law will not compel priests to marry gays.

Ms Thorning-Schmidt said: “It will be up to each priest whether he or she will perform gay marriages, but the government gives all members of the church the right to get married in church, whether they want to marry a person of the opposite or same sex.”

Denmark will join European countries including Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Portugal in allowing gays equal access to marriage.