Key committee adjusts trans law, Marin questions center opposition

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The reform of the transgender law will go to the first chamber of parliament next week. The MPs from the Center and the Finnish Party voted against the proposal.

The Social Affairs and Health Commission met on Thursday to confirm its report on a new gender recognition law. Image: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva

A controversial proposal to reform Finland’s gender recognition law has been passed with amendments by Parliament’s Social Affairs and Health Committee, but without the support of the ruling Center Party.

That prompted a sharp rebuke from Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP), who said the center was once again breaking the agreed rules of cooperation between the five parties in Finland’s coalition government.

“We knew in advance that there are some individual legislators within the Center Party who could not support this proposal,” said Marin. “This has been noted together and I was aware of it, but that should not have affected the work in the committee phase.”

Marin said center leader Annika Saarikko had herself said that individual votes in parliament should not affect the committee stage of the bill. This latest disagreement comes after a similar blockade by the Center Party over a bill on the Sami parliament – which was also part of the government’s programme.

The committee voted 11 to 5 in favor of the transgender bill, with MPs from the Center Party and the Finnish Party voting against, and is now moving forward with a debate and vote of all 200 MPs in the Finnish legislature. This means that the measure will be discussed during this parliamentary term before the members of parliament leave for the elections on April 2.

Under the new law, a person can change their legal gender through an application process. Currently, changing sex requires individuals to undergo medical evaluation and hormone treatment and provide evidence of infertility.

The committee added an amendment that would prevent a person from changing their sex more than once within a 12-month period, unless the applicant has particularly compelling reasons for the request.

The National Coalition Party (NCP) had requested that change.

Markus Lohi, Chair of the Social Affairs and Health Committee (Cen., right) and Vice Chair Mia Laiho (NCP) after their meeting on Thursday. Image: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva

“We have crossed the line,” said the committee chairman Marcus Lohi (Cen). “There were two dissents from the representatives of the Finnish Party and the Center Party, but a majority of the committee accepted with the changes.”

NCP representatives on the committee had voted to accept the law, while the Finnish party opposed it. The center’s MPs voted against, even though their party is a member of the government that proposed the law.

The Centre’s parliamentary group is likely to allow MPs to vote freely on the measure.

The commission’s report included two statements, one about transgender children and one about competitive sports.

The statements ask the government to monitor the impact on competitive sport and introduce additional legislation if necessary.

The other statement said that the government should evaluate the impact on promoting self-determination for transgender children and pass new legislation if necessary.

NCP satisfied with the changes

The vice-chairman of the committee, Mia Laiho (NCP), said her party was satisfied with the legislative changes.

“Yes, we are pleased that we have made the changes in a way that makes it more practical to deploy,” said Laiho.

The party was especially pleased that the gender can now only be changed once a year. Some in the NCP had expressed concern that non-transgender men might change their legal sex to avoid military service.

Finland requires male citizens over the age of 18 to perform military or civilian service, but women are not required to serve.

The party said on Wednesday after reporting back from the committee to decide whether to allow MPs to vote freely on the law.

“There will certainly be a discussion in the parliamentary group,” said Laiho.

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