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Majority of party leaders would support gay marriage

A narrow majority of Finland’s political party leaders say they'd support an amendment to marriage laws to allow same-sex couples solemnise their unions. During an Yle election programme Wednesday evening five political chiefs said they would support gender neutral marriage; three pledged that they would oppose the measure.

Vaalien välissä -keskustelu Ylen studiolla.
Vaalien välissä -keskustelu Ylen studiolla. Image: Yle

Supporters of marriage equality included National Coalition head Alexander Stubb, Social Democratic leader Antti Rinne, The Greens’ Ville Niinistö, Paavo Arhinmäki of the Left Alliance and Swedish Peoples’ Party chief Carl Haglund.

On the opposite side of the fence were Centre Party chair Juha Sipilä, the Finns Party’s Timo Soini and Päivi Räsänen of the Christian Democrats.

The quintet backing the move to rewrite Finland’s marriage laws unanimously based their position on the need to protect human rights and ensure equality.

“It’s a question of human rights, gender equality and equality,” said Prime Minister Alexander Stubb.

The Centre’s Juha Sipilä said he opposes same-sex marriage because it runs counter to the notion of traditional marriage.

“In the Centre Party this is a typical 'freedom of conscience' issue. We give our MPs the freedom to vote according to what they truly believe. I’m sure that the majority of our group will vote in favour of keeping only classical marriage. I shall as well,” he explained.

For his part Finns Party leader Timo Soini said he hoped that the right of every child to have a father and a mother would prevail.

“I’m very hopeful that marriage will remain a union between a man and a woman as it should and as my own position holds,” Soini commented.

Arhinmäki: Time to focus on bread-and-butter issues

Ex-government member Paavo Arhinmäki of the Left Alliance said he was looking for a positive outcome, in which an important step towards stronger human rights would be accepted.

“At the same time it’ll be good to have less of Timo Soini’s constant harping on homosexuality so we can focus on economic matters,” Arhinmäki responded.

The SDP’s Antti Rinne observed that gender-neutral marriage legislation is not about religious beliefs or churches, but a question of the country’s laws.

“We need to look at this from a human rights perspective,” he explained.

Christian Democratic Party chair Päivi Räsänen said her parliamentary group is united in its opposition to gay marriage, adding that existing laws are enough to guarantee gender equality.

“We are working to ensure that the current good laws we have will remain unchanged,” she concluded.

Another ex-government party leader, Ville Niinistö of the Green League observed that accepting the proposal would not only be easy, it would also be important.

“We see human rights as indivisible. As lawmakers we must demonstrate that all young people in Finland are equal and that the right to marry belongs as equally to same-sex couples as it does to heterosexual couples,” Niinistö declared.

Rounding out the group was Carl Haglund of the Swedish Peoples’ Party, who predicted that the bill would pass by a narrow majority when it comes before lawmakers in Parliament.

“I believe that this will go in a positive direction by a margin of a few votes. And I hope it does. I also see this as an extremely important and major human rights issue,” Haglund added.

Finland has been riven by a heated debate on the question of gender-neutral marriage. A citizen's initiative that gathered 50,000 signatures in one day has forced the legislature to consider revising existing laws.

However MPs are yet to approve changes based on the initiative - nor have they approved any other bills generated by the participatory democracy model.

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