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Gender-Neutral Marriage Law Possible by 2012

Authorities in Finland have taken a step towards full legal recognition of same-sex marriages. Next autumn the Ministry of Justice will begin examining how to implement new gender-neutral matrimony laws, which will grant the same rights to all couples, regardless of their gender.

Kaksi naista suutelee, taustalla morsiuskimppu
Image: Zsolt Szigetvary / EPA

Under the new legislation, married same sex couples would be able to adopt children outside of their family circles.

Nearly ten other countries have implemented legislation validating gender-neutral unions. The legislation came into force most recently in Iceland, whose female Prime Minister shares a same-sex relationship. Finland and Denmark remain the only Nordic countries to have failed to grant full legal status to all marriages regardless of the parties’ gender.

Applying gender-neutralisation to all marriages would mean that all married couples would have the same responsibilities and the same rights – including full adoption rights. Currently same-sex couples may only adopt children from within their family circles. Newly-married same-sex couples would also automatically have the right to share the same surname, as is currently the case with heterosexual pairs.

Equal Rights Regardless of Partner’s Gender

The status of same-sex couples has improved considerably during the past ten years. New relationship laws were introduced in 2002, and last year, gay and lesbian couples won the right to adopt within their families.

Justice Minister Tuija Brax says it’s essential that everyone be treated equally before the law, regardless of sexual orientation. She points out that the Finnish constitution does not permit discrimination based on gender.

Brax will drive the formulation of a report on reform of matrimony legislation to be prepared by the Justice Ministry. The process will involve an examination of legislation implemented in other countries. The authorities will also review how gender-neutral marriages can be adapted to current family law.

Largest Political Parties Support New Marriage Law

Four of the five major parties support amending current matrimony legislation, with only the Centre Party withholding support for the measure. The National Coalition Party was the last to pledge support for the proposed changes. The Green League would like to sign gender-neutral marriage into law during the next governmental term.

“There’s currently a great deal of public support in Finnish society. I believe that Finnish society has changed for good on this matter and it’s time we get it settled,” said the Minister.

Brax estimates that a decision on new legislation could come during the autumn of 2011 at the earliest, allowing it to be proclaimed law by 2012.

The introduction of gender-neutral marriage legislation would not guarantee the right to a church wedding, as the church itself decides for whom it will perform a Christian marriage ceremony.

Sources: YLE

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