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MPs back citizens’ initiative to grant maternal rights to female same-sex couples

MPs on Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee voted overwhelmingly to back a citizens’ initiative calling for female same-sex couples to be given maternal rights for children born into the union. The proposal is part of a raft of ancillary laws to be amended following the enactment of gay marriage legislation.

Image: AOP

According to current legislation, the children of female same-sex couples can only have two mothers if one of the partners adopts the children. However the adoption process can take a long time.

Advocates campaigning for legislative change say that lengthy adoptions can infringe on children’s rights, especially in cases where a woman in a same-sex relationship dies in childbirth or soon afterwards. Such cases legally render children orphans, even if the other partner in the relationship is still alive.

Ensuring rights to financial support, inheritance, visitation

The citizens’ initiative calling for reforms to the Maternity Act would formalise the status of a pregnant or birth mother’s same-sex partner. The reform would recognise the partner as a child’s parent even before birth at a maternity clinic. The law would also ensure that a child has the right to financial support, an inheritance and to meet both parents.

The citizens’ initiative has served as the basis for a draft bill prepared by the Justice Ministry before the Juha Sipilä administration took office.

It was set up in November 2015 and gathered the 50,000 signatures required to be sent to parliament in May 2015. It came before MPs for consideration in September 2016.

The amendment has had the support of many of Finland’s major child and family NGOs such as UNICEF in Finland, Save the Children Finland and the Central Union for Child Welfare.