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MPs split on equal marriage initiative

In February parliament is to handle gender neutral marriage once again. Previous attempts to bring in a marriage equality law have foundered due to a lack of support from MPs, but this time overwhelming public support for a citizens’ initiative has brought the issue back to the legislature.

Miespari laittaa toisilleen sormuksia sormeen.
MPs will have to consider whether to allow same-sex weddings. Image: Yle

Last time parliament looked at the issue, 76 MPs signed the bill but it foundered at the committee stage where the Legal Affairs Committee voted 9-8 to reject the proposal.

That left the National Coalition party in an unusual and conflicted position. NCP MPs Lasse Mannistö and Alexander Stubb were the first signatories to the measure, but three of the four NCP committee members—including chair and former Interior Minister Anne Holmlund—voted to kill the bill in committee.

This time the party is likely to manage the process more actively, rather than leaving committee members in control of proceedings.

"I feel that this is such a big issue for many that in my opinion it would be good to become familiar with the initiative as a group," said NCP parliamentary group leader Petteri Orpo. "That way we can show that we take the initiative very seriously—like citizens’ initiatives in general, they are treated properly."

Finns party and Christian Democrats opposed

The Centre party has already met to hear from the Tahdon 2013 campaign, which proposed the initiative. The majority of parliamentary groups have given their MPs a free vote on the issue, but the Finns party and the Christian Democrats are expecting their legislators to oppose the measure in line with manifesto pledges given before the last election.

Party group chairs have a clear understanding of views among their own MPs. The Left Alliance and Green League MPs support marriage equality, while a clear majority of SDP and Swedish People’s party MPs are in favour of legalising same-sex unions.

The NCP and the Centre groups are more divided on the issue. Neither party chair wanted to offer an opinion on how his MPs feel about the initiative. According to answers given to Yle’s election machine in 2011, and the list of signatories to the previous bill, a slight majority of NCP MPs are in favour while the Centre party’s caucus has a small majority opposed to gay marriage.

Based on previous statements to the election machine and the last legislative attempt, the measure should pass a vote in parliament, but the Legal Affairs committee is once again able to decide how the matter proceeds. It could propose the measure proceed to a full vote, or it could repeat the vote of 2012 to ditch the measure.

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