Niinistö: Path to gender neutral marriage remains open

Minister of the Environment Ville Niinistö says the issue of gender-neutral marriage will not be forgotten during the lifetime of the new administration. Some pastors in the Evangelical Lutheran Church have already blessed registered same-sex partners.

Image: YLE Uutiset Grafiikka

Noting Christian Democrat objections, Niinistö of the Green League told YLE's morning TV on Thursday that any individual parliamentarian can bring a bill on gender-neutral marriage before a full session of parliament.

He pointed out that a parliamentary working group had deliberated on the issue. Niinistö said the subject was not just a Greens' issue but was a matter for all parties to consider.

Prayer format ready

Four pastors belonging to the Evangelical Lutheran Church have drawn up a prayer liturgy which can be read at blessings for registered partnerships.

Pastor Liisa Tuovinen from Järvenpää in southern Finland has held prayer sessions for some ten same-sex couples. When the Church Synod agreed in principle on the issue of prayers for registered partners, many colleagues asked her for advice.

Tuovinen researched the matter and came up with ideas for a suitable prayer gathering. Together with three other pastors, she published consultative guidelines on the website of the church paper Kotimaa.

The recommendations, she said, would naturally take in to account the wishes of the couple concerned.

At first, the gathering would explain why the couples were present, Tuovinen says. A freely composed prayer would consist of an introduction, an intercession and the Lord’s blessing. Prayers could be complimented by a scripture reading and music. Time would also be given for the couple themselves.

Divisive subject

Tuovinen notes various symbols have important significance for many people. For instance, a gift of flowers or a decoration may be given. A confession of and promise to love are quite common, she adds.

Tuovinen believes prayers have been said for some ten same-sex couples in Finland. Usually such requests are made to pastors known for their sympathetic views on the subject.

Prayers for same-sex couples have met with considerable opposition within the church’s ranks. The Church Synod says no such liturgy should be prepared although the Church’s official position is not to shun or reject same-sex couples.

It added that prayers for those in a registered partnership should not be similar to blessings given to married couples. Precisely worded prayers should not contain vows or permit the exchange of rings.