On Saturday Gunnar Sjöberg, a Swedish vicar, will marry two men in a wedding ceremony on the beach in Torrevieja and make Spanish history.
For although same sex unions have been accepted by law in Spain since 2005 and tens of thousands have been conducted in town halls since then, it will be the first time that a wedding will have been conducted by a man of the cloth.
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The Catholic Church refuses to allow such unions but the Lutheran Church of Sweden has allowed same sex weddings since a Synod vote in 2009.
“It’s a question of love, not a question of gender,” explained Sjöberg in an interview with The Local.
“It’s a happy day when I can spread more love in the world.”
The wedding will take place between Soliman Herrera Johansson, 38, a Swedish national, and his partner Luis Ricaute Madriz, 28, a fashion designer from Venezuela.
Luis and Soliman in Torrevieja. Photo: S. Johansson
It will be the first time that Sjöberg, who is one year into a five year posting as priest in Torrevieja, has conducted a same-sex wedding and it is something he is really looking forward to.
“For me as a priest it is important not to see the difference in people, so I’m not bothered by the gender of a couple,” said the 60-year-old priest.
“If a couple want to celebrate their love in a world that really needs more love then that’s great.
“For me every wedding is a demonstration of love and love makes the world better. I hope this will be the start of many more gay weddings here,” he said.
But the option to marry in the Swedish Church in Torrevieja isn’t open to everyone.
“The law is unusual because it states I only have the authority to conduct the marriage if one of them is Swedish. And that Swedish person can marry anyone of any nationality except Spanish – because the law here doesn’t allow that,” the vicar explained.
The bridegrooms said they were delighted to be the first in Spain to get married by a vicar. “We are absolutely thrilled over this,” Soliman, the CCO of a multinational IT-company, told The Local.
“Having worked with LGBTQ rights for many years as a communications director at both Eurogames and Stockholm Pride, this really means a lot,” he said.
“And being both very spiritual it was the natural thing to do to get married by a priest,” Soliman said.
“The Swedish Church recognises that this is a human right, which they did even before the Swedish state,” he continued.
“If an institution discriminates based on sex, sexuality, gender, ethnicity or likewise, they should never be given the right to marry any one. It is a shame that the Spanish state still allows the Catholic church to marry people when they discriminate against LGBTQ people.”
On Saturday the pair will be united in holy matrimony in a ceremony conducted beside the Torre del Morro, a 14th century coastal tower overlooking the Mediterranean, where both will be wearing matching blue suits, black shoes, white shirts and blue bow-ties with white polkadots.
“And the sun will shine and the world will be a better place,” confirmed Father Sjöberg.