Finland’s lawmakers will reconsider the issue of marriage equality after a public campaign garnered the highest number of petition signatures for a citizen’s initiative in the country’s history.
The petition needed only 50,000 signatures to prompt parliament to consider the initiative. It in fact secured more than 100,000 on its first day when it debuted in March, and as of writing has more than 164,000 signatures in favor of marriage equality.
This grassroots effort to have parliament reconsider marriage equality comes after the Finish Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee decided in February and by a narrow majority vote of 9-8 that it would not advance a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. Europhiles may remember this apparently prompted Finland’s entry in the Eurovision Song Contest, singer Krista Siegfrids, to sing a song called “Marry Me” at the broadcast event and stage a same-sex kiss protest.
From the parliamentary vote there also sprung the “I Do 2013″ project, designed to exploit an only recently minted citizen’s initiative process and have parliament reconsider equal marriage rights.
The citizen’s initiative process was only added to Finland’s Constitution in March of 2012, and so marriage equality will be among the first crop of motions brought about by public mandate. In fact, the only other initiative to make it before lawmakers was a ban on fur farming, which was rejected by the legislature in early 2013 despite having 70,000 signatures.
Other initiatives currently making their way to parliament include a call for what is described as a “more reasonable” application of copyright law, and a vote of EU membership, though the latter bid appears to have floundered as it failed to reach the required signature total within the necessary time frame.
None of the above mentioned initiatives seem to have even close to the level of support demonstrated by the marriage equality citizen initiative, however.
Finland is the only Nordic country to not recognize marriage equality, with Norway and Sweden enacting equal marriage laws in 2009, Iceland in 2010, and Denmark in 2012. Still, Finland does provide some rights for its same-sex couples in the form of its 2002 registered partnerships law.
While the registered partnership law affords same-sex couples many of the important legal rights of marriage, including inheritance and tax rights and, as of 2009, the right to IVF for lesbian couples, several rights are still denied same-sex couples in Finland simply because they cannot access the legal definition of marriage.
These include being excluded from being able to jointly adopt and not automatically having the right to share family names for legal purposes. Moreover, the current partnership registry does not allow for gender change recognition despite Finland allowing for and legally recognizing the legitimacy of gender realignment in most other areas.
While parliament may have resisted marriage equality efforts in their most recent incarnation, it will be difficult to ignore the strength of public opinion this time around. While the citizen’s initiative alone stands as a strong expression of backing, national polls have recently demonstrated strong majority support for marriage equality.
A January YouGov poll found support at 57%, with only 32% outright opposed, while a March survey by Taloustukimus logged that 58% of Finns support marriage equality. A poll reportedly released just last week by the “I Do 2013″ campaign also found that 58% of Finns support the measure. While support for same-sex adoption is weaker, for instance at only 51% in the YouGov poll, it still regularly polls around the majority mark.
This is the first time in marriage equality’s modern history that a country’s lawmakers have been petitioned by such a sizable proportion of the national electorate and urged through a public initiative to (again) consider making marriage equality law.
The measure is now expected to be taken up by lawmakers in the next few months.
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