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Adoption to the fore in gay marriage debate

Finnish MPs filed into Parliament on Thursday to debate a landmark bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry. Finland is the last Nordic country without a gender-neutral marriage law—something parliamentarians may change when they vote on the measure on Friday.

Sisäministeri Anne Holmlund (kok. )

MPs in Finland started a long-awaited parliamentary debate on Thursday when a citizens’ initiative on same-sex marriage came before parliament. The Legal Affairs Committee has recommended that the proposal be rejected after a tight vote at the committee stage, but a full sitting of Parliament will now get to vote on the bill.

The committee’s chair Anne Holmlund, of the centre-right National Coalition Party, laid out her reasons for opposing the bill.

“Marriage is an old, traditional institution, and the initiative would change the traditional definition of marriage,” said Holmlund.

A majority on the committee felt that the law could create problems for Finns looking to adopt from abroad, as some countries—including Finland’s eastern neighbour Russia—do not want to send children to countries where gender neutral marriage is allowed.

Holmlund said that Russia has cancelled adoptions involving Swedish parents, and could have a similar effect on Finnish parents-to-be.

Green League MP Jani Toivola, on the other hand, said that the bill had overwhelming public support, with more than 160,000 signatures.

“It’s absolutely a win for democracy and transparency in Parliament,” said Toivola, who suggested that if necessary, some countries could be assured that their children would not be adopted by same-sex couples.

Finns Party MPs, on the other hand, were focused on what they described as ‘children’s rights’, saying that children have a right to a mother and a father. Vantaa MP Mika Niikko denied that what advocates describe as equal marriage is a human rights issue.

“This is driven by adults’ wants and needs, which have been labelled human rights,” said Niikko. “Priests’ comments have got people all confused.”

Archbishop Kari Mäkinen, leader of the state-supported Evangelical Lutheran Church, defended the measure and the rights of gay couples and families earlier in the week. MPs will vote on the bill on Friday, with party whips giving them the freedom to vote according to their consciences.

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