By Marja Novak
LJUBLJANA (Reuters) - Slovenia permitted same-sex marriages for the first time from Friday under a law giving gay couples largely the same rights as heterosexuals though barring them from jointly adopting children.
The head of the unit in charge of weddings in Slovenia's second largest city Maribor, Ksenija Klampfer, told Reuters the first lesbian wedding would take place there on Saturday.
"We are very happy and proud that we will perform the first same-sex wedding. We believe that such marriages are an important step towards formation of an inclusive society where people have equal rights," Klampfer said.
A number of other European Union states have legally recognized same-sex marriages, including Britain, France and Spain, but the issue remains contentious in many other EU countries.
The law was passed ten months ago after a December 2015 referendum rejected a draft which would also have given gay couples the right to adopt children.
"This is a big step forward," Lana Gobec, spokeswoman for the Legebitra LGBT rights campaigning group, said. "But we will continue to strive for complete equality of heterosexual and same-sex couples."
Officials in Ljubjana said no same-sex couple had registered to marry in the capital so far.
Gay activists say more remains to be done in Slovenia. Apart from being denied the right to adopt children, they are also excluded from artificial insemination.
"We are still far from our goal... If you truly recognize human rights you recognize them in full. The new law solves some problems but does not solve the basic problem that all people in our country should have the same rights," gay partners Jure Poglajen and David Zorko said in a statement.
Homosexual couples in Slovenia, a European Union member with a 2 million population, have been able to register their relationship since 2006 and are also allowed to adopt children from a partner's previous relationship - though not the children of others.
(Reporting By Marja Novak)