According to the chair of Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee, Anne Holmlund (NCP), the recent citizens’ initiative on gender-neutral marriage was technically unsound. The committee decided against the initiative on Wednesday today with a vote of 10—6.
”It just wasn’t ready,” Holmlund said. “All the experts we asked said that the specific legislation proposed in the initiative is technically non-viable.”
The voting margin was bigger due to two Social Democrats being absent from the committee vote. Additionally, Arja Juvonen of the Finns Party — who would have voted yes — was represented by Mika Niikko, who voted 'no'.
Autumn plenary session on the horizon
The possibility remains that the Parliament plenary session will vote against the Legal Affairs Committee’s negative decision in the autumn. The issue would then move over to the Grand Committee.
“The bill may well go through in the autumn or based on the next government negotiations,” said Green League MP Oras Tynkkynen, who voted for the initiative. “The Western world is gradually coming to accept a gender-neutral legislative stance on marriage, and it feels unlikely that Finland would be the last to come around.”
Jungner tardy, Niikko anti-adoption, Östman dissenting
Social Democrat MP Mikael Jungner, who was paying for his taxi outside Parliament when voting began, was apologetic for being late. “Mea culpa, I feel bad about missing the vote,” Jungner said. He also called the Legal Affairs Committee vote largely symbolic, because of the Grand Committee’s involvement in autumn.
Mika Niikko, who stepped in for Finns Party MP Arja Juvonen, opposed the initiative by referring to adoption rights. “I feel that every child is entitled to a mother and a father,” he said. “This part of the initiative was a deal-breaker for me.” Niikko also considers it possible that the Grand Committee will arrive at a decision opposite to the Legal Affairs Committee’s vote outcome.
Preserving current laws
Peter Östman of the Christian Democratic Party also opposed the bill. “We want to preserve the current marriage laws, which define marriage as between a man and a woman,” Östman said.
If the bill is pushed through in the autumn, changes to Social Affairs and Health legislation and other laws will also be required. Campaigner Senni Moilanen says it's high time Finland moved towards gender neutral marriage.
"We're all very disappointed, we were expecting that the committee would vote yes, but we knew that it would be tight," said Moilanen of the Tahdon 2013 group which proposed the citizen's initiative.
"But now we will look forward to the fall. We're ready to discuss this more with MPs, and ready to tell them more about what our initiative is about, and why they should finally vote yes."