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Finnish same-sex marriage law prompts switch from registered partnerships

Almost 1,600 same-sex couples in Finland have taken advantage of the country's new gender-neutral marriage laws. The majority are same-sex couples in registered partnerships who have changed their status to married.

File photo. Image: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva

Nearly 1,600 same-sex couples have tied the knot since new same-sex marriage laws entered into force in March, Finland’s Population Register Centre reported Tuesday.

At the same time, the population information system, by the end of August, more than 1,100 couples who were previously in registered partnerships got married. During the same period, up to the end of August, more than 450 new same-sex marriages were recorded.

In Finland, a registered partnership can be converted to a marriage if both parties jointly submit a notification at their local registry office. In such cases the partnership continues as a marriage from the date of the notification.

NGO: Reform important for many

According to Finland’s main LGBT rights organization Seta, the fresh data highlights the importance of the legislative reform.

"It sounds like justice has been done and that the legal reform has been important to many people. Some have felt that a registered partnership is not enough and that they want to be married like other people," said Seta secretary general Kerttu Tarjamo.

Back in November 2014, a majority of MPs in the Finnish Parliament voted to rewrite marriage laws to legalise same-sex marriage. The legal reform came into force in March this year. According to Statistics Finland, at the end of 2016, there were 1,052 male couples in registered partnerships and 1,632 female registered partnerships.

Neither Seta nor the population register organisation said they have any information about how many men and women are in same-sex marriages.

Fewer marriages in the east and north

Seta’s Tarjamo pointed out that the change to Finnish marriage laws still does not grant same-sex couples the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts. She said that same-sex couples still have to catch up with hetero couples with respect to family legislation.

"Marriage doesn’t solve problems for everyone in situations relating to establishing a family when a child has more than two parents," she noted.

The latest data show that same-sex couples in southern Finland have taken advantage of the chance to marry. More than half of marriages solemnised or registered partnerships converted to marriage since the legal reform took place in the Häme and Uusimaa regions.

The lowest number of same-sex marriages and unions converted from registered partnerships was recorded in eastern Finland, southeast Finland, Northern Finland and Lapland.