CNN 6/3/99

Finland to Allow Gays to Register Marriages

HELSINKI, Finland (Reuters) -- Finnish Justice Minister Johannes Koskinen said on Thursday he backed a proposal to allow homosexual couples to register their unions in the same way as married heterosexuals, paving the way for a change in the law.

If the Justice Ministry's proposal is accepted, Finland will join the other Nordic countries in having laws allowing homosexuals and lesbians to register their relationships and grant them almost the same rights as married couples.

"In principle, I am for making the relationships official, but the possible legal consequences must be studied," Koskinen told Reuters.

The proposal includes equal rights of inheritance, entitlement to survivors' pensions, social benefits and tax relief for couples.

The Justice Ministry committee said homosexual couples should also be allowed to separate with the same legal rights as divorcing heterosexuals.

But homosexual couples would not gain the right to adopt children, a restriction the Finnish Lesbian and Gay Association SETA has criticized.

"We approve the other parts of the proposal, but it leaves the child's position unresolved," SETA secretary-general Rainer Hiltunen said.

Koskinen said he did not expect the parliament to debate the proposal until next year.

SETA said 100 to 200 Finnish homosexual couples want to register their marriages annually.

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