Finland is at risk of falling behind when it comes to human rights development. We feel that it is an immense injustice that Finland is still the only Nordic country where same-sex marriage is not recognized by state law. We believe that every human being has the right to get married regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.
The Citizen’s Initiative Campaign Tahdon2013 (I Do2013) was launched on 19th March 2013, Finland’s national day for equal rights. By September 19th the initiative was signed by 166 851 citizens. A large number of organizations, companies and celebrities have now openly started supporting the Initiative.
At the moment, Initiative is processed by the law committee of Finnish Parliament.
Citizen’s Initiative for Equal Marriage Law
Current marriage laws in Finland promote inequality by defining marriage to be exclusively between a man and a woman. A Registered Partnership involves all the same obligations, but not all the same rights of marriage. Equal marriage law would ensure everyone the right to marriage regardless of the genders of the spouses. This would make all partners equal in the eyes of the law.
Key points of the Initiative
The primary objective of the initiative is to ensure that same-sex partners will be allowed to marry in the future. The aim of these changes is to increase equality in society. We propose that these changes be implemented by alterations to the existing Marriage Act, Act on Registered Partnerships and the Act on legal recognition of the gender of transsexuals.
The initiative proposes that same-sex partners give up their right to register their partnership as permitted by the Act on Registered Partnerships. The changes would not be implemented on registered partnerships that have been performed prior and that the Act on Registered Partnerships be implemented on these partnerships, unless the partners express their wishes to change the registered partnership into a marriage.
Aims of the Initiative
A more equal position in society would improve the respect of gender and sexual minorities, quality of life and happiness as well as prevent discrimination, harassment and mental health problems. By altering the laws related to marriage society would recognize same-sex partner as equal to opposite-sex partners.
In 2002, Finland implemented the Act on Registered Partnerships. This act permitted same-sex partners the right to formalise their partnership and allowed same-sex partners to enter into the protection of family legislation. This was a significant change, as before legislation did not recognize the committed partnerships of same-sex partners. Current legislation, however, forces partners into inequality in comparison with married partners. The lack of equal marriage legislation upholds structural inequality and segregation in society, and is not up to pace with international human rights development. It is not justifiable to make same-sex partners juridically unequal to opposite-sex partners. The law as it currently stands also demands that people going through sexual rearrangement surgery must change their marriage into a registered partnership or vice versa.
For Finland, permitting same-sex marriage would be a moral precept attainable through minor legislative alterations. The Act on Registered Partnerships presently allows same-sex partners to attain the same legislative obligations and rights, however some provisions do not apply. These include the Names Act on the family name of the spouse, Adoption Act on the right of a spouse to adopt, and Paternity act on the establishment of paternity on the basis of marriage as well as other provisions that concern the spouse based solely on their sex. Also the act of registering a partnership deviates from that of a civil marriage, furthering a sense of inequality.
People attach very diverse personal meanings to marriage and the act of marrying. However, the legislative regulation of marriage has long ceased to uphold religious or ethical perspectives. Marriage is not a static institution. Current marriage legislation dates back to 1929 and has since gone through several significant changes. It is unlikely that the proposed alterations to the existing marriage law would have any effect on the desire of every day people to marry.
A child’s right to a mother and a father has been discussed simultaneously with equal marriage law. However, current family legislation does not recognize this aim and it is not fulfilled by the modern society as it is. A study on children and registered partnerships, commissioned by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, exhibited results that the key impacts in children’s development are social relations and parenthood. The development of a child requires nurturing relationships and responsible parenthood, which in turn demands devotion from the parents, whether female or male. A child’s growth or development does not require two opposite-sex parents, as long as the needs of relationships and life requirements are otherwise met. The welfare of the child is always a priority in adoption, and it must be ensured on the basis of the individual.
Shared Family Name
Registered partners are not permitted to share a family name. When the Act was first drafted this provision was left out on the basis that same-sex partners do not have a similar need for a shared family name like married partners. In reality, same-sex partners often want to share a family name and feel that it is important to them. Shared family names have a long tradition, and they emphasize the formality of a relationship. There is no justifiable reason to expect that the need for a shared family name would be any less in same-sex partners in comparison to opposite-sex partners.
The Effect of Marriage on the Legal Recognition of Gender
Presently, marriage or a registered partnership disallows the recognition of the gender of a transsexual as stated in the legislation. The gender can be recognized with the permission of the spouse, but in this case the relationships will change from either a marriage into a registered partnership or vice versa. This has been viewed as unfair.
When the partners have decidedly entered a committed relationship with their partner or spouse, the recognition of the gender of either party should not force them into a new form of relationship. Changing of one’s relationship essentially means that the former relationship is dissolved. If marriage was available to all regardless of gender, it would not block the legal recognition of gender without the imminent dissolution of the marriage or registered partnership. The proposed alterations aim to improve equality also for people who have gone through sexual rearrangement surgery.