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Finland president signs gay marriage law – couples will have to wait to get married until 2017

Finland president signs gay marriage law – couples will have to wait to get married until 2017

Finland’s president has signed the same-sex marriage bill into law today, but couples will have to wait until 2017 to get married.

President Sauli Niinistö confirmed the new law that will make marriage gender neutral will come into force on 1 March 2017.

This is the first piece of legislation that has been brought to Parliament by the public, under the citizens’ initiative, and approved as the law of the land.

LGBTI rights activists have hailed the change as not only historic, but a symbolic, move to equality.

Finland is the last Nordic country to legalize same-sex marriage.

Aija Salo, the Secretary-General of the country’s LGBTI group National Seta, said it was pay-off for around 10 years of campaigning.

While the country has allowed gay couples to enter into registered partnerships in 2002, over 160,000 people signed a petition calling on Parliament to legalize same-sex marriage. The required amount of signatures for parliament to discuss a proposed bill is 50,000.

‘It’s incredible,’ Salo told Gay Star News. ‘We are of course extremely happy with this result. Not only because of the changes of the Marriage Act itself but because this carries a huge symbolic value.

‘I believe that one of the factors that made the majority of the parliament vote in favor was that many opinion polls showed a steady increase in supporting marriage equality. In two years we went from below 50% to almost 70%.’

She says many people are frustrated they will have to wait until 2017 to get married. This is because parliament has to adapt and change other laws to make way for the new version of the Marriage Act.

Salo believes it was a political move to force a long delay, but possible necessary to get parliament to adopt the change in the first place. It could have been possible, she says, to get an earlier date.

National Seta is now going to work on other LGBTI issues in Finland, such as removing the requirement for trans people to be sterilized and a full psychiatric diagnosis before they transition as well as tackling discrimination in the workplace and schools. 

‘This was a very large and unique campaign, it was the first citizen’s movement. The public spoke,’ she said. ‘It is very important to a lot of people personally and also symbolically, and people are very happy.’