November 28, 2014
Finland became the 12th country in Europe and the last in Scandinavia to legalize same-sex marriage Friday following a vote in the country’s parliament, Reuters reported.
The bill had 105 members of parliament coming out in favor of it, 92 voting against it and one MP abstaining. Prior to the law’s passing, Finnish same-sex couples were given a separate set of partners rights, which did not include the right to adopt children or share a last name, The Guardian explained.
“Finland should strive to become a society where discrimination does not exist, human rights are respected and two adults can marry regardless of their sexual orientation,” the country’s centre-right Prime Minister, Alexander Stubb, said before the vote.
Archbishop Kari Mäkinen of the state-supported Evangelical Lutheran Church had stepped out in the favor of the bill earlier this week, as did political parties including the Social Democrats, the Greens, the Left Alliance and the Finnish-Swedish Peoples’ Party.
Opponents of the bill focused primarily on the child adoption rights issue in the lead up to the vote, noting that children should have a right to a father and a mother for the sake of healthy social development. “This is a question of the future of our children and the whole society, and such changes should not be made without thorough evaluation of their impact,” Mika Niikko of the socially conservative Finns Party said before the vote. He added that in his view, same-sex marriage rights is not a human rights issue, but rather “is driven by adults’ wants and needs, which have been labelled human rights.”
The Center Party, the Finns Party and the Christian Democrats remained opposed to the bill, although the Christian Democrats stated that the legalization of same-sex marriage would not result in their exiting the present governing coalition.
Members of the Legal Affairs Committee, which deals with legal issues including family law, had also voiced their opposition to the bill, fearing that it could create problems in adopting children from abroad, as some countries, including neighboring Russia, are hesitant to send children to countries with gender neutral marriage laws, Finnish English language news site YLE Uutiset explained.
Prior to the vote, the proposed bill met with a great deal of enthusiasm, collecting about 167,000 signatures in a country of 5.4 million last December so that the parliament might deliberate on and debate the issue. Party whips from all parties were said to have allowed members to vote according to their conscience, YLE Uutiset explained.