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social sciences

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To be able to register, both partners must have been residents of Finland for the two years prior to registration.

The Finnish act is similar to the registered partnership acts of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden both in its scope and its limitations and exceptions. There is no right to adopt children, either each other's children or unrelated children, and no right to a church wedding. The legislation permits joint custody of children, however, and grants immigration rights to a foreign partner.

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Finland's Ministry of Justice prepared a proposal for legislation in November 2007 allowing adoption of a spouse's children by a same-sex partner within a registered partnership in order to strengthen the legal status of the child within the family. The reform remains under consideration. The government, however, has expressed no plans to propose external adoption for same-sex couples.

The Finnish Act on Child Custody, however, allows the custody of a child to persons other than biological parents, and Finnish courts have on numerous occasions granted joint custody of a child to same-sex couples. Furthermore, in October 2001, Finland's Supreme Court made a landmark ruling to award custody of two children to their deceased mother's female partner rather than their biological father.

Despite the legality of same-sex partnerships in Finland, bishops of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church have continued to prohibit the blessing of gay unions in church. However, they do allow those registered in homosexual relationships to perform official church duties.

In 2004, Finland's Equality Act went into force, prohibiting direct and indirect discrimination and harassment based on age, ethnic or national origin, language, religion, beliefs, opinions, health, disability, and sexual orientation. In 2005, revisions to the Equality Act extended protection against discrimination to individuals.

Significant Finnish GLBTQ Cultural Figures

Perhaps the most internationally-renowned Finnish glbtq individual is the iconic artist known as Tom of Finland. Notable for his highly stylized art of explicitly gay, hyper-masculine men, Tom of Finland has had a significant influence on late twentieth-century gay culture.

Born Touko Laaksonen (1920-1991) in the village of Kaarina, Finland, he began drawing at an early age, basing his images on the rugged, muscular farmers, loggers, and laborers he spied on in the countryside. After serving in the Finnish Army during World War II, Laaksonen worked in advertising, while continuing to draw at night. It was during this period, in 1953, that he met Veli, the man with whom he would live for the next 28 years.

In 1956, at the urging of a friend, Laaksonen submitted his drawings of square-jawed, muscular lumberjacks to the American bodybuilding magazine Physique Pictorial. Because of the socially conservative times and the strict regulations on erotica, Laaksonen chose to be published under a pseudonym: Tom of Finland.

His work soon came to the attention of the gay community at large, and by the 1970s he was both publishing erotic comic books and infiltrating the mainstream art world.

In 1973 Laaksonen was able to give up his job in advertising and dedicate himself full-time to his art. With his friend Durk Dehner, he founded the Tom of Finland Company in 1979; the Tom of Finland Foundation was formed five years later as a non-profit educational archive to preserve, restore, and exhibit erotic art.

Once asked in an interview if he was not a little embarrassed that all his art showed men having sex, Laaksonen disagreed emphatically: "I work very hard to make sure that the men I draw having sex are proud men having happy sex!"

Laaksonen's longtime companion Veli died in 1981. The artist died from an emphysema-induced stroke on November 7, 1991.

Other significant Finnish glbtq individuals include the writer and activist Aino Malmberg (1865-1933), who was one of the first women students to graduate from the University of Helsinki. She published one novel and two collections of short stories. One of her short stories, the playful and ironically told "Friendship" ("Ystävyyttä," 1903), which has recently been rediscovered and reissued in Finland, and translated into English, concerns the relationship between two unmarried female teachers, one of whom is overtly masculine and the other more typically feminine.

Malmberg married young, and gave birth to three children; she divorced her husband in 1909. Later, she moved to New York, where she lived off and on from 1912 to 1918 with Rose Strunsky, a member of the Heterodoxy Club, a radical feminist club in Greenwich Village.

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