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  • June 2017 : Same-sex marriage

In Finland, the new law on the registered partnerships of same-sex couples came into force in 2002. The General Synod was thereafter presented with two initiatives ; one of them stated that those living in registered partnership should not be allowed to work in the Evangelical Lutheran Church. The other one proposed that same-sex partners could have their registered partnership blessed by the Church. Both initiatives were rejected. A working group was established and both the Bishops´ Conference and General Synod considered the new situation. They came to a compromise according to which the pastors can pray for and with those who have registered their partnership. However, the event should not be compared to a wedding, and it should not comprise elements belonging to a wedding such as exchange of vows and rings.

The much debated law on same-sex marriages was passed in parliament in March 2017. The Church in Finland has now to decide how to proceed if some of the priests were to defy the decisions of the General Synod of the Church, because some priests are prepared to marry same-sex couples even though it is not permitted in the Church Service Book. The Bishops´ Conference commissioned a study in spring 2017 on the alternatives of the Church when in the future secular legislation can be opposed to the Church´s dogma. It is doubtful whether any new decisions about this dilemma will be reached in the near future.

  • September 2009 : The Civil union Law

The law regarding same-sex partners was passed by the Parliament of Finland at the end of September 2001, and came into force in March 2002. Under this legislation the same rights and obligations as spouses, with certain exceptions, are conferred on those registering their same-sex union. However, the pair relationship is a legal institution of a different nature from matrimony.
The ramifications of the law manifested themselves in the General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in May 2002, when two motions put forward by delegates were addressed. In one of these it was proposed that a person living in a registered same-sex union should not be allowed to hold office or work as an employee of the Church, while the other motion proposed the preparation of alternative forms of service to bless the same-sex union and the home. In November 2003 the General Synod decided that the matter of the ramifications of the law in the Church be transferred to the Bishops’ Conference in order to explore its theological and juridical dimensions.
A working group mandated by the Bishops’ Conference prepared a document for the Bishops’ Conference about the theological and legal aspects related with the consequences of the Civil Union Law. It was discussed in the Bishops’ Conference in September 2009 and the Bishops’ Conferences statement was published in February 2010. The Bishops’ Council proposed that there should not be a separate ritual for blessing same-sex unions, but a moment of prayer for and with the couple.

D 8 octobre 2018    ATommi Heino

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