Finland’s parliamentary legal committee has voted against same-sex marriage.
On Wednesday (27 February), a bill died on a vote with nine against and eight for, meaning it will not be proposed before the full parliament.
Under the bill, it would have widened marriage laws to include everyone regardless of gender.
At present, same-sex couples can register their partnerships but have limited rights and cannot adopt their partner’s children.
Aija Salo, Secretary General for Finland-based gay rights group Seta, said LGBT people and the wider community were ‘disappointed and upset’ with the vote.
She is now hoping for the citizen’s initiative, a petition that requires 50,000 names within six months, to force parliament to discuss a marriage equality bill.
‘There will be about 100,000 people signing the bill, and it will be a strong message that they will put it forward under this new system,’ Salo told Gay Star News.
‘As politicians, they should have been able to put it through on their own. But with this citizen’s initiative, it boosts activism and boosts participation in politics.’
Salo said it was known the committee would turn down the bill, and it was an ‘unnecessary year of delay’.
In Finland, the issue of marriage equality has entered into the public eye.
In one day after the parliamentary committee voted against the bill, a Facebook page was created for the citizen’s initiative. It now has over 50,000 likes, 1% of the population.
‘In two days, it is one of the biggest social media phenomena in Finland,’ Salo said.
Out of the Nordic countries, Finland is the only one without same-sex marriage laws.
‘We are not really a modern, equal country,’ Salo said. ‘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 after the citizens’ initiative is introduced. It is an important signal of equal rights for Finland.’
Norway and Sweden approved same-sex marriage in 2009, followed in 2010 by Iceland and in 2012 by Denmark. Four other European states allow it: Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.
The initiative, organized by the Tahdon 2013 group, will begin gathering signatures on 19 March.
Only one such initiative has so far been brought so far to the legislature, a proposed ban on fur farming voted down by members of parliament.