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Topics In the News
 
Finnish Marriage Equality Legislation Back in Play
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 03/19/13
Last updated on: 03/19/13
 
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On February 27, 2013, the Legal Affairs committee of the Finnish Parliament rejected a marriage equality bill on a 9-8 tally, thereby blocking it from consideration by the legislature as a whole. In response, marriage advocates launched a civic petition to force Parliament to consider the bill. On March 19, 2013, the first day on which citizens could sign the petition, more than 50,000 signatures were obtained, the number required to compel consideration by Parliament.

As the Finnish website YLE reports, "A drive to gather the 50,000 signatories required to take a gender-neutral marriage bill to parliament reached its target in just one day. The accumulation of the required support means that lawmakers must now consider a bill which was previously blocked at the committee stage."

Enthusiasm for the petition was so great that the civic proposal website crashed as a result of the overwhelming demand.

The petition is sponsored by the "I Do 2013" campaign, which hopes to gather 250,000 signatures.

Polls show that a majority of Finns support marriage equality, as do many Members of Parliament from the governing National Coalition Party, the Greens Party, and the Social Democratic Party.

Members of the "I Do 2013" campaign are cautiously optimistic that when the full Parliament considers the marriage equality bill, it will pass.

Finland is the only Nordic country that does not offer equal marriage rights. It has traditionally lagged behind its neighbors in extending equal rights to its glbtq citizens.

For example, Finland was the last of the Nordic countries to adopt a registered partnership act. A proposal for registered partnership legislation was first introduced in Finland in 1993, but did not pass. Revised, but equally unsuccessful, versions of the bill were next introduced in 1996 and 1999. (In contrast, Denmark officially recognized same-sex civil unions in 1989, and Norway and Sweden followed suit in 1993.)

On September 28, 2001, following heated debate and vehement opposition by conservative Christian groups, the Finnish Parliament finally passed the 1999 version of the Registered Partnership Act with a few minor revisions. The act took effect on March 8, 2002 and affords same-sex couples most of the rights and responsibilities of marriage, though not the right to adopt children.

In 2009, however, legislation was approved that allows joint adoption of the biological children of same-sex partners. Moreover, although adoption is not a right of registered partnerships, the Finnish Act on Child Custody allows custody of a child to persons other than biological parents, and Finnish courts have routinely granted joint custody of a child to same-sex couples.

 
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