Helsinki Pride 2013 was celebrated on June 24-30 against the backdrop of some good news internationally but stalled development in Finland and outright repression in areas close to Finland.
Addressing the Helsinki Pride 2013 main event Juha-Pekka Hippi, chairman of Seta, the national advocacy organization for HLBT rights in Finland, praised recent decisions in the US for widening HLBT rights there and deplored the repressive situation in countries southeast of Finland. He singled out Russia, Ukraine and Moldova.
Mr Hippi took up the fact that within the current Finnnish coalition government the very small Christian Democratic Party has been allowed to impact key equality and human rights issues in a way that increases inequality in Finland. In the talks to form the government in May 2011 the plans for a reform in the marriage legislation were shelved as demanded by the Christian Democrats. The conservative National Coalition, the main government party, is deeply split on the issue. The two leading parties in opposition The True Finns and the Centre are strongly against allowing gay marriage in Finland.
Nevertheless, the Seta chairman described progress in the marriage issue as inevitable. He recollected that Finland had been the first country to allow women to vote in national elections and asked whether the MPs now opposed to marriage equality want to go down in history as opponents of reform.
A recent effort to change the marriage legislation in Finland on the basis of a Members' Bill failed - as the number of signatories was well under half of the MPs and the conservative chaired Legal Committee was able to block the bill. A civic initiative is under way - with over 150 000 signatories so far but its passage in parliament is far from certain.
The Seta chairman hoped that in the European Election 2014 equality matters would be taken up concretely.
Mr Hippi saw positive development in the position of transgender people in Finland. His organization endorses the view that individuals would be allowed to define their gender themselves. He said there appeared to be progress on the issue in Finland now as the new Minister for Basic Services Susanna Huovinen has assigned a working group to review the legislation.
The Helsinki Pride 2013 parade in downtown Helsinki attracted close to 8000 marchers. Amongst the participants were the Finnish Minister for Culture Paavo Arhinmäki and the staff of the US Embassy in Helsinki, under Ambassador Bruce J. Oreck.