Parliamentary committee narrowly blocks same-sex marriage

Finland is set to remain the only Nordic state not to allow gender-neutral marriage, at least for the foreseeable future.

On Wednesday, the Finnish Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee voted narrowly to reject a gender-neutral marriage bill proposed by National Coalition Party minister Alexander Stubb and others. The bill died in committee on a 9-8 vote, meaning it will not be brought before the full legislature for consideration.

Under the bill, the regulations related to marriage would be the same for everyone regardless of the gender of the partners. At present same-sex couples can register their partnerships, but cannot for instance automatically take each others’ surnames or adopt children.

The bill had stirred friction between the government parties, with Greens minister Ville Niinistö and Social Democratic MP Mikael Jungner accusing Legal Affairs Committee chair Anne Holmlund of delaying consideration of it. Holmlund is also a former Interior Minister and an NCP colleague of Stubb’s. The Parliamentary speakers declared, however, that Holmlund had not acted improperly.

Only 1 NCP rep votes 'yes'

Voting in favour of the bill were committee members from the SDP, Left Alliance, Swedish People’s Party and Greens as well as one NCP legislator, former TV presented Jaana Pelkonen.

Opponents included Anne Holmlund and two other NCP members and the Christian Democrats’ representative as well as MPs from the opposition Finns and Centre parties.

Confusion in Finns' ranks?

Arja Juvonen and Kaj Turunen of the Finns Party had answered in favour of marriage equality in Yle's Vaalikone ('election machine') candidate questionnaire before the 2011 parliamentary elections, but voted against the measure in the committee.

Norway and Sweden approved gender-neutral marriage in 2009, followed in 2010 by Iceland and last year by Denmark. Four other EU states also allow it: Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.

Advocates now turn to a citizens' initiative that, if it gathers 50,000 signatures from Finnish citizens, will force Parliament to consider a law on marriage equality. The initiative, organised by the Tahdon2013 group, will begin gathering signatures on 19 March. Only one such initiative has so far been brought so far to the legislature, a proposed ban on fur farming that was voted down by MPs.