Amidst the economic crisis and pressing environmental challenges, we are in desperate need of good news. Here is one: many countries are rapidly tearing down barriers to equality.
Already ten countries and eight states in the United States have ceased to discriminate against couples based on the gender of the spouse. This brings the number of people living in legislatures with marriage equality globally to quarter of a billion.
Latest additions to the equality club are the states Washington and Maryland in the United States. This gives me great joy not only politically, but also personally. In 2013 I will have the fortune to witness my dear friends Marko and Michael get married in Seattle, Washington.
Finland, too, has been debating marriage equality for years. We now have the necessary ingredients to take a step forward.
Three of our four Scandinavian partners have full marriage equality and the fourth, Denmark, is expected to join ranks soon. Five of the six government parties support the cause. All polls show consistently that there are more Finns in favour of allowing same-sex couples to marry than are against it.
A bill on marriage equality attracted the support of 76 MPs out of 200, including several party leaders and ministers. However, it is likely to get buried in a committee unwilling to let the parliament have a decisive vote.
In a recent parliament debate the bill met with fierce opposition. Representatives of the populist right-wing True Finns party likened granting equal rights to approving of polygamy, incest and even paedophilia. The bill, the opponents argued, would desecrate the holy union between a man and a woman.
This, of course, is nonsense. Marriage equality should really be a non-issue.
According to the Finnish constitution no one should be discriminated against. Allowing two consenting adults to marry does not cost anything. Marriage equality does not diminish existing marriages. Nor does it force anyone to make choices that go against their religious or personal values.
It is somewhat embarrassing that countries like South Africa and Argentina have already achieved marriage equality, but Finland continues to drag her feet. In Iceland the parliament passed a similar measure unanimously, here it is still subject to a fierce – and at times vile and raucous – debate.
But Finland, too, will follow. The writing is already on the wall.
Earlier this year Sauli Niinistö won the presidential elections by a wide margin. He supported granting equal rights to same-sex couples.
The runner-up, Pekka Haavisto from the Greens, not only called for full marriage equality. He also happens to live in a registered partnership with a male spouse.
Finns are ready for marriage equality. It is time for parliamentarians to smell the coffee and pass the bill.