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Finnish parliament gets the Marriage Initiative on the Day of Light

jnsto • 06.11.2013 11:22 NEWS IN ENGLISH

Collection of signatures under way in Finland in early 2013. Most people participated on line, but actual signatures were being collected as well.
The Finnish Civic Initiative for a change in the marriage legislation will be submitted to Parliament on December 13. Signed by over 167 000 citizens the Civic Iniative was launched in early 2013 following the failure of a parliamentary Members´ Bill.

Even though recent opinion polls indicate the majority of the nation would accept making marriage legislation genre neutral in Finland, the passing of the Civic Initiative Bill is far from certain. The success of the value conservative Basic Finns in the 2011 election has created uncertainty amongst parties that earlier accepted the idea. As a further negative factor, in the current polls the opposition Centre is the largest party and its chairman Juha Sipilä has endorsed conservative values on this issue. The parliamentary Members' Bill was blocked in the Legal Committee through actions by the Ctee chairman, conservative MP Holmlund, and never reached the parliamentary floor. The same legal committee could kill the Civic Initiative as well, or it could fall short of a majority in the actual vote.

The decision to submit the Initiative on December 13 adds connotations to the event. It is the annual Lucia Day in the Nordic countries recollecting the old festival of light. Due to the calendar discrepancy during the Julian era Winter Solstice was thought to be December 13. The fact that it is a Friday and the 13th day of the month could be seen as an indication of the uncertainty - or that particular Friday, the 13th will be a day of failure for the homophobic camp in the Finnish parliament.

On the Finnish political scene, the conservative National Coalition party (of Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen) has actually a party convention decision from 2010 endorsing the marriage reform, but the party has since listed the issue as a personal decision by each MP. When forming the incumbent government Prime Minister Katainen also accepted the conditions of the small Christian Party that the government would not promote gay marriage.

The failed Members´Bill attracted the support of 73 MPs. Some non-signatories did say though that they would endorse it, should it reach the floor. But it never made it that far.

The incumbent President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö has failed to endorse the marriage reform even though he has said he wants the same rights to everyone. In the Presidential Election of 2012 he defeated an openly gay candidate Pekka Haavisto. The President has no formal power to bloc the reform but a presidential value statement could ease the personal decisions of MPs concerned about the attitudes of their voters.

The reform has been given unequivocal party support by the Green Party and the Left League. The Social Democrats have also given party level support, but within the party there are concerns connecting their loss of support amongst male blue collar voters and the party support to gay marriage. Amongst the parties, only the Basic Finns have a requirement that their MPs must vote against such a reform.


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