Finland president signs gender-neutral marriage bill, last among Nordic countries

Supporters of same-sex marriage celebrate outside the Finnish Parliament in Helsinki November 28, 2014. (Reuters / Mikko Stig)
Finland’s president has signed a law allowing same sex marriage. It’s the first law adopted by the parliament as a result of the initiative of citizens. Over 160,000 people signed a petition demanding it.

President Sauli Niinistö rubber-stamped the gender-neutral marriage law on Friday, after it was supported by parliament last December. However, the law will only come into force in March 2017, because parliament will have to revise current laws and regulations concerning health and social care in accordance with the new bill.

READ MORE: Same-sex marriages get green light from Finland’s MPs

“It's incredible,” Aija Salo, secretary-general of the LGBTI group National Seta told the 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.”

The bill is the first in Finland’s history propelled by people power. The necessary amount of signatures for this to happen is 50,000, but an overwhelming 167,000 people signed the petition for the bill and made parliament review the draft of the law.

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

Homosexual couples have been able to enter into a registered partnership since 2002, but they didn’t have the rights of traditional families, which include adoption of children.

READ MORE: Nearly 8,000 resign from Finnish church after same-sex marriage vote

The bill garnered support from numerous officials and even religious leaders. The Prime Minister Alexander Stubb in his open letter before the vote in parliament last December said: “Finland should strive to become a society where discrimination doesn’t exist, human rights are respected and two adults can marry regardless of their sexual orientation.”

However, opponents said such changes shouldn’t be made without thoroughly evaluating of their impact.