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Same-sex marriage in Finland

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Finland since 1 March 2017. A bill for legalisation was approved by the Parliament on 12 December 2014 and signed by the President on 20 February 2015.

Previously, from 2002 until 2017, registered partnerships (Finnish: rekisteröity parisuhde; Swedish: registrerat partnerskap) had been available for same-sex couples, which provided the same rights and responsibilities as marriage for opposite-sex couples, except e.g. adoption rights and the right to a joint last name.

Contents

Registered partnershipsEdit

 
Laws regarding same-sex partnerships in Europe
  Marriage
  Foreign marriages recognized
  Other type of partnership
  Unregistered cohabitation
  Unrecognized
  Constitution limits marriage to opposite-sex couples

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.[1] The Act on Registered Partnerships went into effect on 1 March 2002. Registered partnerships, which were available only to same-sex couples, provided the same rights and responsibilities as marriage for opposite-sex couples, except in e.g. adoption rights and family names, and they were registered and dissolved using a procedure similar to that for civil marriage. The legislation also granted immigration rights to a foreign partner.[2]

In May 2009, the Parliament revised the act allowing couples to adopt the biological children of their partner.[3][4] On 1 March 2017, the law was repealed for the parts that dealt with entering into partnerships, therefore leaving the existing partnerships intact and leaving it up to the registered couples to convert their unions into marriages.[5][6]

Same-sex marriageEdit

Parliamentary historyEdit

2007–2011 parliamentary termEdit

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 were asked if they would support a gender-neutral Marriage Act, 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 same-sex marriage.[7][8]

However, a later survey in April 2010 by Helsingin Sanomat reported that there was cross-party support for same-sex marriage and joint adoption rights. Secretary of the National Coalition Party Taru Tujunen stated that an initiative would be put forward at the next party conference on gender-neutral marriage.[9][10] At the June 2010 party conference, the NCP delegates voted in favor of a gender-neutral Marriage Act, though the vice-chairman of NCP Parliament group Ben Zyskowicz did not believe a same-sex marriage bill would be approved by the NCP during the upcoming four years, basing his view on the fact that the majority of the NCP MPs were against it.[11][12] Two weeks earlier, the Social Democrats passed a measure in favor of same-sex marriage.[13] The Left Alliance and the Green League also support it.[14][15] Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, who held a speech at the opening ceremony of Helsinki Pride week on 28 June 2010, said he supports a gender-neutral Marriage Act with full adoption rights for same-sex couples.[16]

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.[17] 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,[18] though in the August 2010 survey, only 20% of the respondents said the issue should be a major theme.[19]

2011–2015 parliamentary termEdit

According to the voting advice application of Helsingin Sanomat, 90 MPs of the 200-seat Parliament elected in April 2011 supported joint adoption for same-sex couples, while 93 MPs opposed it.[20] Upon joining the new Government in 2011, the Christian Democrats required assurances that no government bill would include same-sex marriage.[21] 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, the Social Democrats, the Left Alliance, the Green League and the Swedish People's Party.[22] The legislative proposal was presented as a members' initiative on 29 September 2011.[23][24][25]

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.[26][27][28] On 27 February 2013, the bill was voted down by the Legal Affairs Committee in a 9–8 vote.[29][30] After being turned down by the committee, a similar bill was put forward as a citizens' initiative, organised by the Tahdon2013 campaign ("I do 2013").[31] The campaign commenced to gather signatures on 19 March 2013,[29][32] and by the evening of the first day, the initiative had gathered over 90,000 online signatures, eventually reaching a total of 166,851. The required minimum for an initiative to be sent to Parliament is 50,000 signatures.[33][34]

Citizens' initiatives had only been possible in Finland since 2012.[35][36] 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).[37] 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.[38][39]

In April 2013, the Speaker's Council of Parliament issued recommendations on how citizens' initiatives are to proceed in Parliament. All initiatives shall 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. by holding hearings of 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 marriage initiative ended after the standard six months period in September 2013 and the initiative was submitted to Parliament on 13 December 2013. In February, the initiative was sent to the Legal Affairs Committee.[40][41][34][42][43] The committee unanimously voted to schedule a public hearing on the initiative for 13 March 2014.[44] After the public hearing, Yle reported that the initiative would be sent to the plenary session and not die in the committee.[45][46] On 25 June 2014, after multiple committee hearings with experts, the Legal Affairs Committee voted 10–6 against same-sex marriage. The vote would have been closer but two members in favour of same-sex marriage missed the vote and were replaced by one substitute member against it.[47][48]

On 20 November 2014, the committee voted 9–8 for recommending that the Parliament reject same-sex marriage.[49][50] In the bill's first reading on 28 November 2014, the full session of Parliament, by a vote of 92–105, did not accept that recommendation, thereby approving the amendments to the Marriage Act, removing references to the spouses as "men" and "women".[51][52] 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.[53][54] The initiative was approved 101–90 by the full session in its second reading on 12 December and was signed by President Sauli Niinistö on 20 February 2015. Along with the final vote, Parliament also approved a statement requiring the next Government to draft necessary amendments to other relevant acts so that they would be consistent with the Marriage Act.[55][56][57][58][59] The amendments to the Marriage Act took effect on 1 March 2017.[60][61][62]

During 2014 thousands of Finns resigned from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland due to comments made by church officials supporting the new legislation.[63]

12 December 2014 vote in the Parliament of Finland[64]
Party Yes  No  Abstention Not Present Totals
National Coalition Party      26 15 0 3 44
Social Democratic Party      36 3 0 2 41
Finns Party      1 35 0 1 37
Centre Party      6 29 1 0 36
Left Alliance      12 0 0 0 12
Swedish People's Partya      9 1 0 0 10
Christian Democrats      0 6 0 0 6
Green League      9 0 0 1 10
Dissidents from the Left Alliance      2 0 0 0 2
Change 2011      0 1 0 0 1
Totals 101 90 1 7 b199
a. The Swedish-speaking Finns' parliamentary group consists 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.

2015–2019 parliamentary termEdit

Following the elections of 19 April 2015, a new more conservative government was formed consisting of the Centre Party, the Finns Party and the National Coalition Party. Despite a majority of their MPs having voted against same-sex marriage, the Government was supposed to introduce amendments to other acts whose wordings still referred to a married couple as "man" and "woman". While the majority of the Finns Party were of the opinion that the amendments to the Marriage Act should be repealed, the other two parties generally disagreed. The opposition parties, with the exception of the Christian Democrats, were almost completely in favour of amending the other acts in order to harmonise them with the Marriage Act.[65]

On 22 October 2015, the Parliament started to debate legislation to amend other acts that still had specific references to opposite-sex couples. Minister of Justice Jari Lindström from the Finns Party, who introduced the bill, said he did that despite his personal opposition.[66][67] On 11 December 2015, the Legal Affairs Committee recommended the adoption of the bill with amendments.[68] The bill was approved by Parliament, in a 106-42 vote, on 17 February 2016.[69] It was signed by the President on 8 April 2016 and took effect on 1 March 2017, on the same day as the amendments to the Marriage Act. Among laws amended were the Act on Population Information System and the certicate services of the Population Register Centre (661/2009), the Act on Legal Recognition of the Gender of Transsexuals (563/2002) and the Religious Freedom Act (453/2003).[70][71][72]

17 February 2016 vote in the Parliament of Finland[73]
Party Voted for Voted against Absent (Did Not Vote)
Centre Party     
Finns Party     
National Coalition Party     
Social Democratic Party     
Green League     
Left Alliance     
Swedish People's Partya     
Christian Democrats     
Total 106 42 52
a. The Swedish-speaking Finns' parliamentary group consists 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.

A separate bill to make necessary changes related to social benefits and social and health care services was introduced by the Government on 3 November 2016, and approved by the Parliament, in a 128-28 vote, on 13 December 2016.[74][75][76][77] It was signed by the President on 13 January 2017 and took effect alongside the amendments to the Marriage Act.[78][79][80]

13 December 2016 vote in the Parliament of Finland[81]
Party Voted for Voted against Abstained Absent (Did Not Vote)
Centre Party      - -
Finns Party     
National Coalition Party      - -
Social Democratic Party      - -
Green League      - -
Left Alliance      - -
Swedish People's Partya      - -
Christian Democrats      - - -
Total 128 28 4 40
a. The Swedish-speaking Finns' parliamentary group consists 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.
c. The nine deputies of the Swedish People's Party that were present accidentally voted against the bill, although the entire group supported it.[82]
d. Both SDP MP Henry Wallin and Finns Party MP Mika Niikko have reported that they had intended to vote "no." [83]

A citizens' initiative was started on 29 March 2015 aiming to repeal the gender-neutral amendments to the Marriage Act.[84] The initiative collected almost 110,000 signatures by 29 September 2015 and was presented to the Parliament on 22 June 2016. On 8 September 2016, it was sent to the Legal Affairs Committee after a plenary debate.[85][86] On 15 February 2017, the committee recommended that the Parliament reject the initiative.[87][88][89] On 17 February 2017, the Parliament voted to accept the committee's recommendation by a 120-48 margin with 2 abstentions, thus not approving the initiative.[90][91][92][93]

17 February 2017 vote in the Parliament of Finland[93]
Party Voted for Voted against Abstained Absent (Did Not Vote)
Centre Party (KESK)     
Finns Party (PS)      -
National Coalition Party (KOK)      -
Social Democratic Party (SD)      -
Green League (VIHR)     
Left Alliance (VAS)     
Swedish People's Party (RKP)a     
Christian Democrats (KD)     
Total 120 48 2 30
a. The Swedish-speaking Finns' parliamentary group consists 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.
c. RKP MP Eva Biaudet and VIHR MP Krista Mikkonen have stated that they have voted incorrectly, as they were both registered to have being absent for the vote.[94] They have both intended to vote 'Yes' on the committee report.[95][96]

StatisticsEdit

87 same-sex marriages were performed in the first month, following the entry into force of the amendments to the Marriage Act. In addition, 770 registered partnerships were converted to marriages during that same period.[97][98]

Public opinionEdit

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%,[99] while an August 2010 survey conducted by Yle, put the support at 54%, with 35% opposing it.[19] 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.[100][101] A March 2013 survey by Taloustutkimus found that 58% of Finns supported same-sex marriage.[102] In March 2014, a follow-up Taloustutkimus survey found a support of 65% with 27% opposing and 8% unsure.[46]

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.[103]

The 2015 Eurobarometer found that 66% of Finns thought that same-sex marriage should be allowed throughout Europe, 28% were against.[104]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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