Recognition of same-sex unions in Finland
|Legal recognition of
Registered partnerships in Finland (Finnish: rekisteröity parisuhde; Swedish: registrerat partnerskap) were created for same-sex couples in 2002. The legislation granting similar rights and responsibilities to same-sex couples as to married opposite-sex couples was passed by the Parliament in September 2001 with votes 99–84. In May 2009, the Parliament revised the law allowing couples to adopt the biological children of their partner. Registered partnerships, which are available only to same-sex couples, are registered and dissolved using a procedure similar to that for civil marriage. The legislation also grants immigration rights to a foreign partner. Legislation for same-sex marriage was submitted to the Parliament on March 2012 but it was turned down by the Legal Affairs Comittee. The bill was reintroduced to the Parliament in December 2013 as a citizens' initiative, with the support 160,000 people, and went to introductory debate in February 2014.
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. According to the voting advice application of Helsingin Sanomat, 90 MPs of the current 200-seat Parliament elected in April 2011 supported the inclusion of external adoption in same-sex couples' rights, while 93 MPs opposed it. As a result of the Christian Democratic participation in the new government 2011, a bill legalizing same-sex marriage was not included in the government platform. 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 would be endorsed by all the six parties except for the Christian Democrats (the National Coalition, Social Democrats, Left Alliance, Green League and Swedish People's Party). The legislative proposal was presented 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, although some others 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 will, however, be considered by the Parliament 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, while the minimum for it to go to the Parliament is 50,000 signatures.
Citizens' initiatives have only been possible in Finland since 2012. Therefore it is still unclear whether a citizens' initiative will be considered on equal footing with a Government bill (hallituksen esitys), or a Members' Initiative (lakialoite), which is a bill put forward by individual MPs. 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.
On 17 April 2013, Speakers Council of Parliament issued 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 6 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 on 19 September 2013 and the initiative was submitted to the parliament on 13 December 2013. On 20 February 2014, the initiative was debated in Parliament and sent to the Legal Affairs Committee. On 27 February, Yle's Finnish websites reported that the Committee unanimously voted to schedule a public hearing on the initiative on 13 March, although Yle's English websites reported the next day that the Committee would have sent the initiative to plenary session.
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.
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