Same-sex marriage in Finland
A bill legalizing same-sex marriage in Finland was approved by the parliament on 12 December 2014 and signed by the President on 20 February 2015. Because other acts require followup changes, the law will not take effect until 1 March 2017. Along with the vote for a bill, the parliament also approved a statement requiring government to prepare these changes and introduce them by the end of 2015.
Legal recognition for same-sex couples in Finland has been available since 2002 as registered partnerships (Finnish: rekisteröity parisuhde; Swedish: registrerat partnerskap), which provide the same rights and responsibilities as marriage for opposite-sex couples, except e.g. adoption rights. In 2009, the Parliament revised the law allowing couples to adopt the biological children of their partner.
Legislation introducing registered partnerships (Finnish: rekisteröity parisuhde; Swedish: registrerat partnerskap) for same-sex couples was passed by the Parliament on 28 September 2001 with a vote of 99–84. The law went into effect on 1 March 2002. Registered partnerships, which are available only to same-sex couples, provide the same rights and responsibilities as marriage for opposite-sex couples, except in e.g. adoption rights and family names, and they are registered and dissolved using a procedure similar to that for civil marriage. The legislation also grants immigration rights to a foreign partner.
In May 2009, the Parliament revised the law allowing couples to adopt the biological children of their partner.
2007–2011 parliamentary term
A poll conducted by Christian newspaper Kotimaa reported in March 2010 that a narrow majority of Finnish MPs opposed same-sex marriage. Of the 126 MPs who responded asked if they would support a gender-neutral marriage law 46% were in favour and 54% were opposed. 63% of Social Democratic representatives supported same-sex marriage as well all MPs from the Greens and Left Alliance. Majorities of the Centre Party and National Coalition Party opposed gender-neutral marriage law.
However, a later survey in April 2010 by Helsingin Sanomat reported that there was cross-party support for gender-neutral marriage law and joint adoption rights. The National Coalition Party's secretary Taru Tujunen stated that an initiative would be put forward at the next party congress on gender-neutral marriage. In the June 2010 party congress, the NCP delegates voted in favor of a gender-neutral marriage law, though the vice-chairman of NCP parliament group Ben Zyskowicz does not believe a same-sex marriage bill will be approved by the NCP during the upcoming four years, basing his view on the fact that majority of the current NCP MPs are against it. Two weeks earlier the Social Democrats passed a measure in favor of same-sex marriage on their party congress. Left Alliance and Green League also support it. Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, who held a speech at the opening ceremony of Helsinki Pride week on 28 June 2010, said he demands a gender-neutral marriage law with full adoption rights for same-sex couples.
On 2 July 2010, Minister of Justice Tuija Brax announced that the Ministry of Justice is preparing a reform of the Marriage Act in the autumn of 2011. It was considered possible that same-sex marriage would be legalized after the 2011 parliamentary elections, where it was speculated to turn into one major theme, though in the August 2010 survey, only 20% of the respondents said the issue should be a major theme.
2011–2015 parliamentary term
According to the voting advice application of Helsingin Sanomat, 90 MPs of the 200-seat Parliament elected in April 2011 supported the inclusion of external adoption in same-sex couples' rights, while 93 MPs opposed it. Upon joining the new government 2011 Christian Democrats required assurances that no Government bill will include same-sex marriage. However, according to the Left Alliance, it was agreed upon during the talks on government formation that, if proposed as a Members' Initiative by individual MPs, such a bill could be endorsed by the remaining five parties in the government: the National Coalition, Social Democrats, Left Alliance, Green League and Swedish People's Party. The legislative proposal was presented as a Members' Initiative on 29 September 2011.
On 21 March 2012, after five months of signature gathering among MPs, the bill to legalize same-sex marriage was submitted to Parliament. 76 out of the 199 voting MPs had signed their support for the draft bill, and several additional members were expected to vote for it, including Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen. On 27 February 2013, the bill was voted down by the Legal Affairs Committee in a 9–8 vote. After being turned down by the committee, the same bill was put forward as a citizens' initiative, organised by the Tahdon2013 campaign ("I do 2013"). The campaign commenced to gather signatures on 19 March 2013 and by the evening of the first day, the initiative had gathered over 90,000 online signatures. The required minimum for an initiative to be sent to Parliament is 50,000 signatures.
Citizens' initiatives had only been possible in Finland since 2012. Therefore in March 2013 it was still unclear whether a citizens' initiative would be considered on equal footing with a Government bill (hallituksen esitys), or a Members' Initiative (lakialoite). Members' Initiatives signed by at least 100 MPs are given precedence in legislative process, while initiatives with less signatures mostly expire at the end of the legislative session.
Speakers Council of Parliament issued in April recommendations on how citizens' initiatives are to proceed in Parliament. All initiatives will be sent to a committee chosen by the plenary session of Parliament. The committee should inform signatories of the initiative within six months on how the committee plans to handle the matter, e.g. hearings from specialists, whether to recommend the initiative for a vote in the plenary session etc. The committee has full authority on the matter and works independently.
Signature collection for the same-sex initiative ended after the standard six months period in September and the initiative was submitted to Parliament on 13 December 2013. In February, the initiative was sent to the Legal Affairs Committee. and the Committee unanimously voted to schedule a public hearing on the initiative on 13 March 2014. After the public hearing Yle reported that the initiative will be sent to the plenary session and not die in the committee. On 25 June 2014, after multiple committee hearings with experts, the Legal Affairs Committee voted 10–6 against same-sex marriage. The vote should have been closer but two members for same-sex marriage missed the vote and where replaced by one substitute member against.
On 20 November, the committee voted 9–8 for recommending that the parliament reject same-sex marriage. On 28 November 2014, the full session of Parliament by a vote of 92–105 did not accept that recommendation, thereby casting the decisive vote paving the way for the legalisation of same-sex marriage. Due to the Parliament not accepting the recommendation, the Grand Committee continued consideration of the initiative on 3 December 2014, voting 17–8 in favour of approving the initiative. The initiative was approved 101–90 by the full session at the second reading on 12 December and was signed by the President on 20 February 2015. Because other acts require followup changes the new marriage act will not take effect until 1 March 2017. Along with the final vote Parliament also approved a statement requiring next government to prepare these changes in a Government bill during 2015.
|National Coalition Party||15||26||0||3||44|
|Social Democratic Party of Finland||3||36||0||2||41|
|Swedish People's Party of Finlanda||1||9||0||0||10|
|Dissidents from the Left Alliance||0||2||0||0||2|
|Change 2011 (nativist populist)||1||0||0||0||1|
- a. Sitting as Finlandssvenskar’s Parliamentary Group of nine Swedish People’s Party members and one Independent representing the Autonomous Region of Åland.
- b. The Speaker votes only in unusual circumstances, though he or she continues to serve as one of the 200 members of Parliament.
The support for same-sex marriage in Finland has grown during the 2000s. A December 2006 EU poll put Finnish support for same-sex marriage at 45%, while an August 2010 survey conducted by Yle, put the support at 54%, with 35% opposing it. In January 2013, a poll conducted by YouGov found that the support had climbed to 57%, with 32% opposed and 12% unsure. In the same survey, support for same-sex adoption was 51%, with 36% opposed and 13% unsure. A March 2013 survey by Taloustutkimus found that 58% of Finns supported same-sex marriage,. In March 2014, a follow-up Taloustutkimus survey found a support of 65% with 27% opposing and 8% unsure.
A June 2014 survey showed that among clergy of the state Evangelical Lutheran Church, 44% support a gender-neutral marriage law, while 41% oppose and 15% are neutral. 60% support church blessings for registered couples. 28% say the Church should abandon the legislated duty to perform marriages if a gender-neutral marriage law is introduced.
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