LGBT rights in Finland

EU-Finland.svg
Location of Finland (dark green)

– in Europe (light green & dark grey)
– in the European Union (light green)  –  [Legend]

StatusLegal since 1971,
age of consent equalized in 1999
Gender identityTransgender people allowed to change legal gender, only after sterilization
MilitaryLGBT people allowed to serve openly
Discrimination protectionsSexual orientation and gender identity protections
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsSame-sex marriage since 2017
AdoptionYes

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in Finland are some of the most progressive in the world. According to an annual ILGA report, Finnish LGBT legislation is among the most extensive and developed legislations in Europe. Compared to fellow Nordic countries, it ranks near the top, outranked only by neighbouring Norway. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity have been legal in Finland since 1971 with "promotion" thereof decriminalized and the age of consent equalized in 1999, and homosexuality declassified as an illness in 1981. Discrimination based on sexual orientation in areas such as employment, the provision of goods and services, etc, was criminalized in 1995 and discrimination based on gender identity in 2005.

Same-sex marriage and joint adoption by same-sex couples were approved by the Finnish Parliament in 2014, and the law took effect on 1 March 2017.[1] Previously, Finland had allowed registered partnerships between 2002 and 2017,[2] which gave same-sex couples the same rights as married couples except for adoption and a joint surname. In vitro fertilization (IVF) was legalized for lesbian couples in 2007 and stepchild adoption became possible for all same-sex couples in 2009.

Finland is often referred to as one of the world's most LGBT-friendly countries and public acceptance of LGBT people and same-sex relationships is high.

Legality of same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Homosexuality has been decriminalized since 1971, and was declassified as an illness in 1981, around the same time as in other European countries. The age of consent was equalized to 16 in 1999. Transvestism was declassified as an illness in 2011.

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

2000s[edit]

Registered partnerships (Finnish: rekisteröity parisuhde; Swedish: registrerat partnerskap) in Finland were created for same-sex couples in 2002. The legislation, granting similar rights and responsibilities to same-sex couples as to married opposite-sex couples, was passed by the Parliament in September 2001 with a vote of 99–84.[3] In May 2009, the Parliament revised the law allowing couples to adopt the biological children of their partner.[4] Registered partnerships, which were available only to same-sex couples, were registered and dissolved using a procedure similar to that for civil marriages. The legislation also granted immigration rights to a same-sex foreign partner of a Finnish citizen. The registered partnership law was repealed on 1 March 2017 after same-sex marriage legislation came into effect.

According to a survey conducted by the newspaper Kotimaa, on March 11, 2010, the 2007 parliamentary election resulted in a split on the issue of same-sex marriage, with 54% of MPs opposing and 46% supporting a gender-neutral marriage law.[5] However, four of the eight parties in the Parliament — the Social Democrats,[6] the Greens,[7] the Left Alliance,[8] and the Swedish People's Party[9] — had declared their support for same-sex marriage in their general position papers. The National Coalition put same-sex marriage on its agenda in its party congress in June 2010,[10] though vice-chairman of its parliamentary group Ben Zyskowicz did not believe it would be approved at least by the NCP during the upcoming four years, basing his view on the fact that majority of the then NCP MPs were against it.[11] The Centre Party had no general position on same-sex marriage,[9] though it opposed adoption rights for same-sex couples.[12] The Christian Democrats,[13] and the True Finns took a negative stance on same-sex marriage in their electoral platforms.[14]

2010s[edit]

Based on support by five of the eight parties in the Parliament elected in 2007,[10][6][7][8][9] it was considered possible that same-sex marriage would be legalized after the 2011 parliamentary elections. It was speculated that the issue of same-sex marriage would be a major theme,[9] however, in an August 2010 survey by Yle, only 20% of the respondents said the issue should be a major theme.[15] According to the voting advice application of Helsingin Sanomat, 90 MPs of the 200-seat Parliament elected in 2011 supported same-sex couples' eligibility for external adoptions, while 93 MPs opposed it.[16] As a result of the Christian Democratic inclusion in the cabinet – the Christian Democrats' chairperson, Päivi Räsänen, became the Minister of the Interior,[17] – a bill legalizing same-sex marriage was not included in the government platform.[18] However, according to the Left Alliance, it was agreed upon during the negotiations on government formation that, if proposed by an individual MP, such a bill would be endorsed by all the other parties in the Government Coalition (the National Coalition, the Social Democrats, the Left Alliance, the Green League and the Swedish People's Party).[19]

A work group for the bill, headed by National Coalition MP Lasse Männistö, was soon launched and began operating in September 2011.[20] A bill was subsequently presented to the Finnish Parliament on 8 February 2012, with the collection of endorsement signatures - 76 of the 199 voting MPs indicated that they supported the bill.[21] The bill received full support from the Left Alliance and ex-Left Alliance MPs (12 and 2, respectively) and the Greens (10), while it enjoyed majority support within the Social Democrats (30–12) and the Swedish People's Party (7–3). Meanwhile, the marriage bill enjoyed minority support within the National Coalition (14–30) and very little support from the Centre (1–34), while no MPs from either the True Finns nor the Christian Democrats voiced support.[22] According to state broadcaster Yle, the bill had a reduced chance of passing because it was submitted as a private member's bill and, therefore, had to have at least 100 signatories in order to qualify for the preparation process in a parliamentary committee – as opposed to a government proposal which goes directly to a committee and to a vote in a parliamentary plenary session.[23][24]

On 27 February 2013, the bill was voted down by the Legal Affairs Committee in a 9–8 vote.[25] Prior to the rejection, proponents of the bill accused the committee chair, Anne Holmlund (who personally opposed the bill), of delaying the process. Holmlund denied this, pointing to a number of government proposals and bills with over 100 signatory MPs, which have precedence under the procedural rules. Finns Party MP Arja Juvonen, who had been expected to be more pro-gay than her predecessor on the committee (Johanna Jurva), also accused the Greens, the Social Democrats and the Left Alliance of pressuring her to endorse the bill against the Finns Party's group decision.[26] An amendment to the Finnish Constitution passed on 1 March 2012 allows for citizens' initiatives with at least 50,000 valid signatories to be considered by the Parliament.[24] As such, a civil campaign called "Tahdon2013" ("I do 2013")[27] quickly gathered pace and collected the necessary signatures for the bill by 19 March 2013,[25][28] gathering over 100,000 online signatures on the first day alone.[29] In total, the initiative was backed by over 166,000 by its deadline, September 19, and was submitted to the Parliament in December 2013.[30][31] The bill was put for introductory debate (lähetekeskustelu) in plenary session on 20 February 2014, after which the bill was referred to the Legal Affairs Committee.[32][33] On 25 June, the bill was rejected by the Legal Affairs Committee by a vote of 10-6. The Committee recommended that Parliament reject the bill. Two members were not present, though both apologized for being absent and stated that it would have failed on a 9-8 count if everyone had attended.[34]

On 28 November 2014, the Finnish Parliament voted 105-92 to reject the Legal Affairs Committee's recommendation. The legalisation was then approved 101–90 by the Parliament on 12 December, making it the first citizens' initiative to be passed by Parliament.[35] It was signed into law by President Sauli Niinistö on 20 February 2015. Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb showed support for the bill, boosting it as "a prime example of citizen power."[36] Following a number of legislative follow-ups, the law allowing same-sex marriage went into effect on 1 March 2017, making Finland the 12th European nation to legalise same-sex marriage.[1]

Adoption and family planning[edit]

Joint adoption for same-sex couples is legal and a law allowing such adoptions went into effect on 1 March 2017.[1] The Finnish Parliament's approval of a same-sex marriage law in late 2014 included provisions allowing same-sex couples to adopt. Stepchild adoption has been legal since 2009. Female couples have more parental rights than male couples, given that equal access to in vitro fertilization (IVF) and artificial insemination was legalized in 2006. Surrogacy remains illegal for both opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples.

Parentage rights for lesbian couples are complex. In 2016, a citizen's initiative calling on Parliament to amend the law so as to allow female same-sex couples to have automatic parentage recognition in law was launched. Previously, such couples had to carry out an intra-family adoption to be recognised as the parents of children conceived via fertility treatment.[37] In February 2018, the Parliament passed a law by a vote of 122-42 that includes same-sex female couples in all rights of maternity pay and full parentage rights.[38] It was signed by the President on 20 April 2018 and went into effect on 1 April 2019.[39]

28 February 2018 vote in the Parliament of Finland[40]
Party Voted for Voted against Abstained Absent (Did not vote)
     Centre Party
     National Coalition Party
     Social Democratic Party
     Blue Reform
     Finns Party
     Green League
     Left Alliance
     Swedish People's Partya
     Christian Democrats
Total 122 42 1 35
a. The Swedish-speaking Finns' parliamentary group consists of nine Swedish People’s Party members and one independent representing the Autonomous Region of Åland.
b. The Speaker votes only in unusual circumstances, though he or she continues to serve as one of the 200 members of Parliament.

Discrimination protections[edit]

Discrimination based on sexual orientation has been criminalized since 1995 and on gender identity or expression since 2005. The Act on Equality between Women and Men prohibits discrimination on account of sex and gender identity.[41] In 2014, the Finnish Parliament amended the law, establishing further protections in employment, the provision of goods and services, education and health services.[42]

Section 8(1) of the Discrimination Act (Finnish: Yhdenvertaisuuslaki; Swedish: Diskrimineringslag)[a] reads as follows:[45]

Gender identity and expression[edit]

In Finland, people wishing to change their legal gender must be sterilized or "for some other reason infertile". In 2012, a possible change of the law was put under consideration by the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.[46] A recommendation from the UN Human Rights Council to eliminate the sterilization requirement was rejected by the Finnish Government in 2017.[47] In October 2017, a bill to amend the law failed because not enough MPs supported the measure. Committee chair Tuula Haatainen said that only 8 out of the 17 committee members supported the bill. The bill was introduced by Left Alliance MP Silvia Modig in 2016 and had gathered 85 MP signatures in the Finnish Parliament.

Sakris Kupila, a transgender activist and medical student, was denied a legal gender change after refusing to undergo this process, campaigning along with Amnesty International to demand a change to the law.[48] Transgender people must also receive a mental disorder diagnosis in order to change legal gender.[49]

In 2019, the newly-elected Rinne Cabinet released their legislative plans for the next 4 years. It includes the removal of the sterilisation requirement for sex changes and banning surgeries on intersex infants.[50][51]

Intersex rights[edit]

In 2019, the newly-elected Rinne Cabinet announced it intends to ban the use of surgeries on intersex children.[50][51]

Blood donation[edit]

In December 2013, the Finnish Medicines Agency changed its rules on blood donations, repealing a permanent ban for men who have had sex with men (MSM) and setting a one-year deferral period.[52]

Public opinion[edit]

Helsinki Pride in 2012

The 2015 Eurobarometer found that 66% of Finns thought that same-sex marriage should be allowed throughout Europe, 28% were against.[53]

Support for same-sex marriage in Finland has grown gradually since the 2000s. A December 2006 EU poll put Finnish support for same-sex marriage at 45%,[54] while an August 2010 survey conducted by Yle put support at 54% with 35% opposing it.[15] In January 2013, a poll conducted by YouGov found that support had climbed to 57%, with 32% opposed and 12% unsure. In the same survey, support for same-sex adoption was 51%, with 36% opposed and 13% unsure.[55] A March 2013 survey by Taloustutkimus found that 58% of Finns supported same-sex marriage.[56] A survey taken in March 2014 by Taloustutkimus found that 65% of Finns supported same-sex marriage, while 27% opposed. A different survey in March 2014 found that 57% supported same-sex adoption, while 36% opposed.[57][58]

A gay rights panel discussion aired on YLE2 on October 12, 2010, was followed by an unprecedented high number of people leaving the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.[59][60] In 2014, thousands of Finns resigned from the Church, following comments made by church officials supporting the same-sex marriage legislation.[61]

Living conditions[edit]

The 2018 Helsinki Pride parade was attended by an estimated 100,000 people; almost triple that of 2017.[62]

Finland is often referred to as one of the most LGBT-friendly countries in the world and public acceptance of LGBT people and same-sex relationships is high. The "Gay Happiness Index" (GHI), based on a poll by PlanetRomeo, lists Finland as the twelfth happiest country for LGBT people, on par with countries such as New Zealand and Spain.[63] In March 2019, Finland was ranked the fourth-best LGBT-friendly travel destination in the world, tied with several other European countries, including the Netherlands, Austria, Malta and Iceland among others.

Several Finnish cities have LGBT organisations which offer help, guidance and counselling concerning coming out, health, sex and relationships. The largest such group is Seta, founded in 1974. Others include Trasek, a transgender and intersex rights group,[64] and Rainbow Families (Sateenkaariperheet, Regnbågsfamiljer).[65] These groups also campaign for increased legal rights for same-sex couples and transgender individuals, as well as for societal acceptance.

Pride parades are held in various cities across Finland, notably in Helsinki, the capital, but also in smaller cities such as Rovaniemi and Kuusamo, in the north of the country.[66][67] An estimated 100,000 people attended the 2018 Helsinki Pride parade.[62] Prime Minister Antti Rinne participated in its 2019 edition.[68]

Politics[edit]

In 2011, Pekka Haavisto, an openly gay member of the Finnish Parliament, was nominated as the Green League candidate for the Finnish presidential election of 2012. In the first round of the election on January 22, 2012, he finished second with 18.8 percent of the votes, but in the run-off on February 5, he lost to the National Coalition Party candidate, former Finance Minister Sauli Niinistö with 37.4 percent of the votes.[69]

In February 2017, Haavisto announced that he would reprise his candidacy in the 2018 presidential election.[70] The decision came after Haavisto had been approached multiple times by the Green League.[71] In the election, Haavisto placed second with 12.4 percent of the votes, while President Niinistö went on to secure his second term with a majority of votes.[72]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1971)
Equal age of consent Yes (Since 1999)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only Yes (Since 1995)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services Yes (Since 1995)
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) Yes (Since 1995)
Anti-discrimination laws concerning gender identity Yes (Since 2005)
Recognition of same-sex couples Yes (Since 2002)
Same-sex marriages Yes (Since 2017)
Recognition of adoption for single people regardless of sexual orientation Yes
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples Yes (Since 2009)
Joint adoption by same-sex couples Yes (Since 2017)
LGBT people allowed to serve openly in the military Yes
Right to change legal gender Yes (Since 2002; but requires sterilisation)
Access to IVF for lesbians Yes (Since 2006)
Automatic parenthood for both spouses after birth Yes (Since 2019)
Conversion therapy banned on minors No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No (Illegal for heterosexual couples also)
MSMs allowed to donate blood Yes/No (Since 2013, one year deferral required)

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Northern Sami: Ovttaveardásašvuođaláhka;[43] Inari Sami: Oovtviärdásâšvuođâlaahâ;[44] Skolt Sami: Õõutverddsažvuõttlääʹǩǩ

References[edit]

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  30. ^
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  39. ^ (in Finnish) Tasavallan presidentin esittely 20.4.2018
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  42. ^ Laki naisten ja miesten välisestä tasa-arvosta annetun lain muuttamisesta
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  62. ^ a b Helsinki Pride attracts ‘record-breaking’ 100,000 marchers, PinkNews, 2 July 2018
  63. ^ The Gay Happiness Index. The very first worldwide country ranking, based on the input of 115,000 gay men Planet Romeo
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  66. ^ Gay Rights in Finland
  67. ^ Pride Event Calendar
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External links[edit]

Media related to LGBT in Finland at Wikimedia Commons