Same-sex couples in Finland can officially get married in Finland from today (1 March).
The last Scandinavian country to open marriage to same-sex couples, it was a long and arduous journey to reach this day.
Kerttu Tarjamo, the Secretary General of national LGBTI rights group Seta, said it was a ‘joyous’ moment that was ‘decades in the making’.
Journey to equality
After allowing gay couples to register their relationship from 2002, a citizen’s initiative signed by 160,000 people reached parliament calling for marriage equality in 2014.
Parliament voted for in November that year, a close vote of 105 to 92, but a homophobic petition signed by 100,000 people forced parliament to debate and vote on the matter once more.
With a shift in parliament in April 2015, the party opposed to same-sex marriage in power, MPs voted again. This time, homophobes lost even more.
That time, 120 voted in favor and only 49 voted against.
While there was a last-ditch attempt to stop same-sex marriage two weeks ago, the legislation could not be stopped.
And now same-sex couples can be legally married with all the same rights as opposite-sex married couples.
‘There are going to be a lot of different celebrations around the country,’ Tarjamo told Gay Star News.
‘A lot of people are going to be getting married today. A lot of people will be changing their registered partnerships into marriages. If you look at social media, it’s a lot of rainbows and happiness.’
Tarjamo said marriage will give same-sex couples joint adoption, the ability to have your name changed automatically, and to not be outed when signing legal documents.
‘I feel equal,’ one engaged woman said. ‘The law is now treating everyone in the same way.’
Hanna Kalanne (right) and Siru Hokka (left) have been together for about a year and will be getting married this September.
‘I feel equal,’ Kalanne told GSN. ‘Equal is the word of today. The law is now treating everyone in the same way.’
For the couple, they were waiting to get married rather than ‘register’ their relationship’.
‘You know when you find the right one. We’re not so young anymore. It has been difficult. I was in the closet until I was 30 years old. But we found each other and quite soon I realized this is the person I want to be with the rest of my life,’ she said.
‘We don’t choose who we love. When two people love each other, it’s as worthy as any other love. It doesn’t matter if it’s different gender or political views or religion.
‘It’s important legislation treats everyone in the same way. If there is a difference, people start to think those people are different or weird or something.
‘But we are the same kind of people who just want to love each other and get married and we are proud of that.
‘The legislation is the base of how we see people. When legislation is equal, then slowly the attitudes will change too. People won’t see us as different.’
Fight for equality in Finland doesn’t end here
For Seta and other LGBTI rights campaigners, the fight for equality doesn’t end here.
Finland’s advocates will now be fighting for trans rights, as the rules still require people to be infertile before transition. There is also a hope to change the law to allow two same-sex parents to be named on a baby’s birth certificate. There is also plans to address homophobic bullying in schools.
‘With equal marriage, it gives us hope that even when things feel desperate things can change,’ Tarjamo added to GSN.
‘Human rights are not obvious. We can’t take things for granted and we need to work for them. Same-sex marriage didn’t happen in a year or two, it took a decade.
‘We need to work. But with time, and with commitment, things will change for the better.’