Leader of Finland’s Christian Democrats clarifies party’s objection to same-sex marriage legislation

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The leader of Finland’s Christian Democrat Party has denied saying that if same-sex marriage is legalized, her party’s members will quit their positions within the ruling government.

According to the English-language news site Yle Uutiset, Päivi Räsänen said that her previous comments published in Turun Sanomat were misinterpreted. Although she had said that the Christian Democrats felt that gender-neutral marriage is “a matter of principle and it could see us leave” their governmental positions if marriage equality is made law, she claims she meant only if such a measure came from the government itself, rather than a citizens’ initiative.

In 2002, Finland introduced civil partnerships that are nearly identical to marriage, but a decade later it had become the only Nordic country without marriage equality—Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Denmark all legalized it between 2009 and 2012.

After legislation intended to enact marriage equality in Finland was voted down by parliamentary committees in March 2013 and June 2014, a citizens’ initiative was launched. Under Finnish law, proposals must gather at least 50,000 signatures to be considered by members of Parliament, and same-sex marriage activists were able to collect 166,000. The initiative is likely to be put up for a parliamentary vote in November.

Räsänen also said that while her party has no issues with whatever Parliament decides regarding the initiative, they made an agreement with the government that the cabinet would not push through a bill of its own on the issue: “We are keeping our side of the bargain and naturally we trust that our government partners will also keep to our agreement.”

She added, “The government has to concentrate on vital questions about the Finnish economy.”

Before Räsänen clarified her comments, she was called out by Defense Minister Carl Haglund. A member of the Swedish People’s Party, which represents the interests of the Swedish minority living in Finland, he said in a statement released by the party, “Finland is in an unusually challenging economic situation.

“Now there’s a need for responsibility, not political defections from the government. It cannot be that our country’s government’s ability to operate is brought into question just because of a principled opposition to a citizen’s initiative.”

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