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All systems go for gender-neutral marriage in 2017

Starting in March 2017, all registered same-sex partnerships will be recognized as marriages in Finland. New rules say that all registered same-sex couples need to do after that to gain marital status is fill out and submit a form with their local register office.

Hääasuiset naiset pitävät toisiaan kädestä.
Image: AP GraphicsBank

Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö has completed the process of confirming an amendment to make marriage gender neutral, as well as signing off on a wealth of revisions to associated legislation to bring them into line with the concept. That means that the ground-breaking legislation is now ready for nationwide implementation in March 2017.

The definition of marriage will then be gender neutral throughout the country. Couples who have been living in registered partnerships will be able to change their relationship status by simply submitting a registration form to their local register office. At the same time, the old practice of officially registering same-sex relationships as partnerships will be discontinued.

The amended law will come into effect at the start of March 2017. During the interim, any possible impediments to marriage for example can be investigated in advance, so same-sex couples can marry immediately on the first of March, if they wish. 

The legislative changes also open up adoption rights to same-sex couples, as their marriage will be seen as equal under the law. At present, only hetero couples are able to adopt children in Finland.

About 300 same-sex couples have registered at their local register offices each year, leading to a total of 2,435 relationships as of 2014.

Unfinished benefit business

As of 8 April 2016, Finland’s President has also confirmed all of the associated legislative changes that the new gender neutral marriage status has made necessary. For example, language in several other laws needed to be altered to coincide with the historic change. These associated laws dictate such things as population information system procedures, determination of a child’s religious affiliation and infertility treatments.

The reform will also eliminate the previous requirement that required that prospective sex change operation patients demonstrate they are unmarried or not in a registered partnership.

Changes to laws on social benefits and social and health care services necessitated by the marriage act amendment are still being prepared by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. These changes are also scheduled to be ready by the March 2017 deadline. 

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