Extra red tape for same-sex couples registered abroad

When gender-neutral marriage legislation takes effect at the start of March, same-sex couples in a registered relationship can formalise a marriage by merely filing a notice. This, however, does not apply to couples who formally registered their relationship outside of Finland.

Veera and Salla Willman intend to change their registered relationship status into a full marriage. Image: Toni Pitkänen / Yle

Veera and Salla Willman registered their relationship almost five years ago. At the time they did it without fanfare. They are now planning to make up for that.

"We promised each other that once the [gender-neutral] marriage law comes into force we'll have a real celebration, a real party. I think friends and family members already have some pretty high expectations," Salla Willman laughs.

As of March, same-sex couples will be able to marry. Those who are already in registered relationships have the option of merely filing notice with the registry office of a change in status. It doesn't even necessarily require a visit to the office.

"A form is being created that can be sent by mail. Of course, it can be done in person, too," explains Saija Lyytinen of the Eastern Finland registry office. 

In 2015, there were around 2,600 registered couples in Finland. Once the law changes, relationships will no longer be registered.

Voiding foreign registered relationships

The option of converting registered relationships into marriages applies only if the original process was carried out in Finland. If the relationship was registered abroad, and the couple wishes to get married in Finland, the relationship will first have to be formally voided.

Saija Lyytinen admits that this procedure may seem rather unreasonable. However, she notes that there are only a few registered couples in the Eastern Finland registry district who will be affected.

"It's hard to imagine how I'd feel about having to sort of divorce before being able to marry," says Veera Willman. "It could be that some people will find it quite humiliating," adds Salla Willman.