Marriage Equality Law Rejection May Have a Silver Lining

A proposal for marriage equality law was blocked today in the Finnish parliament. Among other things, it proposed giving same-sex couples full adoption rights. The decision of the parliament’s legal affairs committee is obviously embarrassing for the attempts to create an image of Finland as a vanguard of equality rights.

The silver lining is that citizen’s initiative will be able to make visible its legislative potential. This could be an unprecedented opportunity for mechanisms of participatory democracy, traditionally not very strong in Finland.

I have no reason to entertain false illusions about the extent of democracy in general or participatory democracy in particular in Finland. Nevertheless, the law of citizen’s initiative that became effective almost exactly one year ago, on 1 March 2012, is good news for possibilities of participation. Other recent moves in the same direction include participatory budgeting initiatives in the municipality of Helsinki.

My guess is that the citizen’s initiative on marriage equality will gather a record number of signatories. The final result will depend again on the parliament, with the exact procedure depending on the form the initiative will have.

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