Finland passes law allowing same-sex marriage

Friday, November 28, 2014

Prime Minister Alexander Stubb welcomed the vote.
Image: Frankie Fouganthin.

The Parliament of Finland has voted 105 to 92 today to approve a citizen's initiative to legalise same-sex marriage. The law now makes marriage gender-neutral and extends adoption rights and the right to use the same surname to same-sex couples.

Prime Minister Alexander Stubb supported the change to the law. Before the vote, he wrote: "Finland should strive to become a society where discrimination does not exist, human rights are respected and two adults can marry regardless of their sexual orientation." Following the vote, Stubb said he was "sincerely happy that marriage equality, gender equality and human rights prevailed in this issue."

Stubb also noted the citizen's initiative process that led to the law being considered by Parliament is "important" and "a demonstration of civic activism."

Timo Soini from the nationalist opposition Finns Party commented: "For me marriage will remain a union between a man and a woman. I will not change my position. [...] This will be the first time we make it normal for children to be removed from their biological roots." Soini suggested that if his party were to form the next government, it is unlikely they would make same-sex marriage a priority. "I would say that in government formation talks we would focus on the Finnish economy and employment. These kinds of issues would hardly be on the table," said Soini.

Mika Niikko from the Finns Party said, "This is a question of the future of our children and the whole society, and such changes should not be made without thorough evaluation of their impact."

Interior Minister Päivi Räsänen from the Christian Democrats Party said the vote represented a "deep question of principle" and "in the future a large group of Finns will continue to consider marriage to be a bond between a man and a woman, and that they will not consider relationships between people of the same gender to be marriages."

In contrast, Archbishop Kari Mäkinen from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland welcomed the change: "I know how much this day means to the rainbow community, their loved ones and many others. I rejoice with my whole heart for them and with them."

Archbishop Mäkinen had previously stated: "If the initiative is passed, no one's marriage will lose any of its value, nor will the position of a single child be endangered. If the initiative is not passed, the recognition of and improvements in the status of sexual minorities will not stop here. Changes in attitudes have taken place and continue to take place." The future treatment of weddings by the Evangelical Lutheran Church has not yet been determined.

Outside of the Parliament, supporters of same-sex marriage and opponents both turned up to demonstrate, although the former outnumbered the latter. Finland now becomes the 12th country in Europe to allow same-sex marriages, although the law is not going to take effect immediately. The country has had a registered partnerships law for same-sex couples since 2002.