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Finnish Parliament Must Vote on Citizens' Petition for Same Sex Marriage Law

BY Antonella Napolitano | Monday, March 25 2013

Helsinki Cathedral in Midnight Sun (credit: Visit Finland/Flickr)

Over the course of a single day last week, Finnish advocates of equal marriage rights gathered 50,000 signatures for a petition that proposes granting legal recognition to same sex couples. The proposal has been submitted to parliament for a vote.

The Citizens's Initiative Act mandates that any legislative proposal which gathers 50,000 signatures within six months can be submitted for a vote in parliament. The first initiative to pass the mark called for a ban on fur; it was submitted at the beginning of this year. Finland's population is 5.3 million.

While it implemented the Act on Registered Partnerships in 2002, Finland is still the only Nordic country where same-sex marriage is not recognized by state law. At the end of February, Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee decided not to table the bill for discussion and balloting. But with the submission of the petition with the required number of signatures, parliament is legally obligated to vote on the legislation.

Last Tuesday night, about 100,000 Finnish citizens gathered in towns and cities around the country to voice their support for the marriage equality campaign, which is popularly called Tahdon2013 (Tahdon is Finnish for "I do"); the signature collection began at midnight.

"Public enthusiasm for the petition was so great that the Ministry of Justice's civic proposal website crashed as a result of the overwhelming demand," reported Yle, Finland's national public-broadcasting company.

The result was praised by Open Ministry, an Helsinki-based NGO that works on crowdsourcing legislation, deliberative and participatory democracy and citizens initiatives. Open Ministry created an open-source platform for citizens to discuss proposals that was key to a fast implementation of the Citizen's Initiative. The initiative rewrote the history of internet democracy as almost 3 percent of the whole voting population signed the initiative electronically on the very first day , according to a report on their website.

The threshold of 50,000 supporters needed to pass the initiative to Parliament was met within nine hours of launching the campaign and by midnight some 120,000 people had signed the initiative with their online bank codes or mobile phone. Yle reported that by Wednesday morning, 107,000 adult Finns had signed the petition.

The campaign continue in tandem with several others initiatives. The drive was launched with the aim of gathering 250,000 signatures; a fundraising concert is planned in late April.

Finland was the first country to make rapid Internet access a legal right, and boasts an Internet penetration rate of 89.3 percent, according to data released by the ITU in June 2012.