updated 4/1/2009 5:29:11 PM ET 2009-04-01T21:29:11

Sweden became the fifth European country to allow gay marriage.

Parliament on Wednesday adopted a new law that gives same-sex couples the same marriage rights as heterosexuals.

The Parliament's Web site said the new law will take effect on May 1.

The Netherlands, Norway, Belgium and Spain also allow gay marriages.

Sweden recognized civil unions between homosexual couples since 1994. However, the old law stopped short of calling them marriages, which gay rights activists said was discriminatory.

It will still be up to individual churches to decide if they want to wed gay couples.

Swedish news agency TT said the 349-seat legislature passed the measure in 261-22 vote, with 66 lawmakers abstaining or absent.

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