Finnish lawmakers on Friday narrowly approved a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry in the Scandinavian country.
Parliamentarians by a 105-92 vote margin approved the measure. They considered the bill after supporters of nuptials for gays and lesbians collected more than 166,000 signatures to bring it before the Finnish Parliament.
“ILGA-Europe warmly congratulates everyone involved with the citizen’s initiative, their allies and those parliamentarians who supported it,” said Paulo Côrte-Real, co-chair of the International Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Intersex (ILGA)-Europe Executive Board.
Ty Cobb of the Human Rights Campaign also welcomed the vote.
“We commend the elected representatives of Finland for passing such historic legislation ensuring the nation’s LGBT citizens receive the rights they deserve, and we congratulate the LGBT activists and advocates who made this momentous day possible,” he said.
Parliamentarian Mika Niikko, a member of the nationalist Finns Party, spoke against the measure before his colleagues approved it.
“This is a question of the future of our children and the whole society, and such changes should not be made without thorough evaluation of their impact,” he said as Reuters reported.
Same-sex couples are able to legally marry in Iceland, Wales, England, France, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Denmark and Sweden.
The first same-sex marriages in Scotland will take place on Dec. 31. Gays and lesbians can begin to legally marry in Luxembourg on New Year’s Day.
A referendum on whether to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples in Ireland is scheduled to take place in 2015.
Same-sex couples have been able to legally register their partnerships in Finland since 2002.
The Finnish Parliament’s Grand Committee must approve the marriage bill before it goes back to lawmakers for a final review.
Finland will become the last Scandinavian country in which gays and lesbians can legally tie the knot if the measure receives final approval.
“This great step signals Finland’s strong intent to join its Scandinavian neighbors in recognizing the rights of all couples, regardless of sexual orientation and gender,” said Joyce Hamilton, co-chair of the ILGA-Europe Executive Board, after the vote. “We hope that the upcoming Grand Committee discussions and subsequent votes by MP’s are as positive and inspiring as the vote we have witnessed today.”