Finland’s parliament will begin debating a bill to allow same-sex marriage today (20 February).
Despite same-sex marriage legislation being defeated before, gay rights activists are hoping politicians will do the right thing on their second chance.
But unlike last time, politicians are discussing the bill on the will of the people.
Under Finnish law, petitions can be started to force parliament to discuss bills that matter – called a ‘citizen’s initiative’.
These petitions require 50,000 names within six months. The marriage equality bill achieved nearly 100,000 signatories in 24 hours.
With the final tally at 166,000 names, the proposed petition will be discussed in parliament at its initial stage today where it will be sent to Finland’s legal committee.
Polling conducted last year shows support for same-sex marriage at 58% with 34% opposed. Around 42,000 people have signed a petition opposing changes to the marriage law.
At present, same-sex couples can register their partnerships but have limited rights and cannot adopt their partner’s children.
Finland is the only Nordic country without same-sex marriage laws.
Aija Salo, Secretary General for Finland gay rights group Seta, said LGBT people were disappointed when the same-sex marriage was opposed last year by Finns Party, Christian Democrat, Centre and National Coalition MPs.
‘We are not really a modern, equal country,’ Salo told Gay Star News. ‘People have thought we have already reached LGBT equality, and what are people whining about?
‘People realize it is not so, it is not easy, and the big parties are not taking responsibility for making this country a better place.’
She added: ‘I really hope Finland will follow suit after the UK, France, states in the US, and all of the other countries that have already introduced equal marriage laws.
‘I hope that MPs will listen to the call of the people. It is an important signal of equal rights for Finland.’