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|FINNQUEER||Sep 28, 2001|
Civil Union Law Demonstration in Front of Finnish Parliament, September 27, 2001
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The Finnish Parliament passed a Civil Union Law making same-gender partnerships legally accepted. A large demonstration took place a day before the final vote. Click the photos with your mouse to make them larger. Photo copyrights are owned by Mikko Tuomela and Olli Stålström, unless indicated otherwise.
Opponents of the law started with encircling the Helsinki Parliament building in the darkness of the night carrying the crosses and warnings of the fate of Sodom. The religious demonstrators marched seven times around the Parliament Building in commemoration of Joshua who marched around the city of Jericho seven times. In this case the crosses were not burning.
Supporters of the partnership law had organized via the Internet and marched to the steps of the Parliament building on the next day. According to police estimate there were around 70 Christian (mainly Pentecostal) opponents and 400 supporters. Both sides congregated on the steps milling around and shouting at each other, separated by a thin line of police and Parliament security officers.
The opponents waved large leather-bound Bibles and shouted passages from the law of Moses. The proponents appealed to human equality and love.
The supporters consisted of an unofficial collection of rainbow people, with a sprinkling of activists from FinnQueer web magazine, the national gay and lesbian organization SETA and its Helsinki branch HeSETA. The supporters came from universities, green and left-wing parties and various student bodies. They received visible support from the American Psychiatric, Psychological and Psychoanalytic Associations, who sent their relevant pro-civil union statements to the Finnish Parliamentarians through FinnQueer web magazine.
The supporters mainly consisted of young urban university people, women and men, queer, lesbian, gay, bisexual all being represented. This reflected the basic principle of integration of the Finnish movement.
The march and demonstration were documented by FinnQueer editors Mikko Tuomela and Olli Stålström, who also participated (photo). The technical editor of FinnQueer, Mikko Tuomela and his friend Kaisa Nuolioja carried a huge banner: "The sign of the Covenant — pray for the partnership law" (photo).
The supporters had collected rainbow people via the Internet. The organizers of the march were Maria Socada, a FinnQueer editor and a medical doctor and Johanna Kurkela, a female student from the city of Tampere.
The marshals and flag-bearers of the march were Sami Mollgren and Leo Koivistoinen, both specialists in web publishing from Helsinki and activists of a web magazine for young gay males, ranneliike.net (the name means "wrist movement", a humorous allusion to the stereotype of a wrist-flapping queen).
The web magazine ranneliike published an illustrated article about the demonstration in Finnish.
As a university lecturer of sociology Olli Stålström, PhD, also participated in the debate in the press and the electronic media, together with Jorma Hentilä, a highly-placed politician and former Secretary General of the party which became today's Left Alliance. They provided scientific information for the Members of Parliament via FinnQueer web magazine in Finnish, Swedish and English.
The ground work had been done mainly by Outi Ojala, a female MEP [Member of European Parliament](Left Alliance), who initiated the law proposal in 1993 and by a succession of chairwomen of SETA, Hannele Lehtikuusi (today the party secretary of the Greens), and Tiina Kivinen (now activist in the Green party). Their work was continued in the new Millennium by Kirsti Pohjanpää (today a university researcher) and by the then Secretary General of SETA, Rainer Hiltunen (today a lawyer in the Office of Ombudsman for Minorities).
The supporters of the law were helped by various important persons from the political arena and the universities. These included Tytti Solantaus, a female child psychiatrist and Kati Mustola, a sociologist, both of whom who rectified several myths and stereotypes spread by the opponents as they appeared in front of the Parliamentary Law Committee.
Several leading Biblical researchers gave arguments and support for the partnership law. Supporters from within the universities and various churches formed an unofficial support network Yhteys, which included a leading ethicist Martti Lindqvist, a Biblical researcher, Martti Nissinen, and the Vice Rector of Helsinki University, Biblical Researcher Raija Sollamo.
Finally also Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen and Minister of Justice Johannes Koskinen indicated their support both as Parliamentary leaders and individual lawmakers.
Jorma Hentilä, a City of Helsinki Councillor of the Left Alliance, appeared on many radio and television programmes and in the FinnQueer web magazine writing to the Members of Parliament. FinnQueer editor Olli Stålström published his doctoral dissertation in 1997 on the end of the illness model of homosexuality and the rise of the ex-gay movement.
The supporters were mainly young, urban people, most of them students. When asked by one religious demonstrators how many were lesbian or gay themselves, about one half of the supporters raised their hands. Apparently many supporters were straight who were motivated by the larger issues of the demonstration, societal equality and freedom of speech.
The Rainbow People had prepared themselves carefully with positive and light-hearted slogans, many of which were taken from the theology of liberation. The Rainbow People consciously strived to avoid aggressive fanaticism as a contrast to the opponents who cited condemning passages from the books of Moses and StPaul.
Most of the religious opponents were bussed to Helsinki from Pentecostal congregations in the Finnish Bible Belt (poor rural Middle Finland and Western Coast). Their nation-wide Operation Joshua joined hands with the Christian Democratic M.P.'s and visiting, self-appointed American Prophets who tried to scare the people of Helsinki with their warning of fire and brimstone if the civil union law is passed.
David Wilkerson, who presents himself as the Prophet of New York, has been a regular visitor in Helsinki for a quarter of a century. David Wilkerson preached on the Helsinki Railway Square just weeks before the vote in the summer of 2001.
The guest star on the Parliament steps a day before the vote was Shirley Arnold, a self-proclaimed American Prophet, who was being welcomed by Finnish Christian Democratic M.P.'s on the steps of the Parliament. The anti-law prophets used the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York as a sign that God punishes attempts to legalize sexual sins.
The anti-law arguments (in Finnish) were summarized on the web page of the Espoo Pentecostal Congregation (a satellite city of Helsinki) who transmitted them to Members of Parliament.
The American ex-gay ideology (mainly from NARTH and Living Waters has been imported and translated by the Finnish ex-gay movement Aslan. Aslan had lobbied M.P.'s for years. Previously opponents of legal equality had sent to all M.P.'s the booklet by Asser Stenbäck, a priest and psychiatrist and a former Christian M.P. This booklet ( What is homosexuality, 1993) introduced the reparative therapy of Charles W. Socarides and Joseph Nicolosi to the political debate in Finland. Previously professor Stenbäck had been the psychiatric expert of the Christian Democrats and successfully introduced in 1971 a law prohibiting factual information about homosexuality. In the 1950's Dr Stenbäck recommended the castration of "homosexuals" claiming that they themselves want to be castrated. In the 1940's, during the war he publicly praised, in a Christian student journal, Hitler's military actions to destroy the Archenemy.
The Stenbäck booklet was used as an argument when the extreme Christians charged Archbishop John Vikström in 1993 with heresy in the cathedral chapter of the State Church and with the crime of "encouraging homosexuality" to the secular police. The Archbishop had been too liberal in his condemnation of homosexuality. While condemning it as a sin, the Archbishop had said that it is no more heinous than the other sins.
Those who opposed the law in Parliament came mainly from the ranks of the Christians, conservatives, agrarians and populists. They received ideological support from the American religious right (specifically NARTH, Living Waters and the Christian psychologist Paul Cameron.
The opponents come mainly from older age cohorts, men from rural areas. In this kind of a complicated moral debate there were splits in the battle lines. Although the conservatives usually were against the law, some of the most visible proponents were politically-conservative women. Although women, greens and left-wingers generally supported the law, some of the most vicious attacks came from socialist ranks, one of whom compared "homosexuals" to pigs. The most fanatic opponent is Päivi Räsänen, a Christian Democratic woman, who has warned for years that gays are a threat to children and civil unions a threat to the fabric of society. In a televised debate on March 8, 2002, Olli Stålström had to ask a pointed question of Päivi Räsänen, M.P.: "Why do you Christian Democrats violate the eighth Commandment ("Thou shall not lie") on a massive scale".
The opponents of the law had marched seven times around the Parliament House, because Joshua had marched around Jericho seven times. Pentecostal demonstrators knelt down on the steps of the Parliament praying against the law and speaking in tongues. Many of the religious demonstrators had first-hand experience in being saved from various problems. One of the Christian organizers came publicly out as an ex-convict saved by Jesus. Another was saved from Satanism. The leading Finnish reparative therapist, Seppo Jokinen is publicly known in the press for having been saved from alcoholism by Jesus. He has therefore dedicated his life to saving "homosexuals".
The theologian importing the NARTH and Living Waters doctrine, Ari Puonti, publicly represents the ex-gay ideology. Several persons testified on the Parliament steps how Jesus had saved them from sin and crime. One speaker described how an Algerian harbour police had raped him. Another one had become a Satanist by reading Stephen King's books, but had been saved by Jesus. The American self-proclaimed Prophet Shirley Arnold, speaking on the Parliament steps, warned against the sin of Sodom. Lauri Oinonen, M.P., (Christian Democrat) personally came to greet and thank the demonstrators.
The opponents claimed that God himself participated in the debate by organizing the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York only days before the final vote in Finland in September 2001. The armed police officers formed a thin chain to separate the two blocks of demonstrators (photo), the Christian opponents (on the left) and the supporters (on the right).
The opponents of the law carried traditional nationalist and religious symbols: the Bible, cross, the national flag and warnings against homosexuals attacking children. The supporters carried rainbow flags, colourful attire, smiles and slogans of love.
FinnQueer editor Olli Stålström recorded and documented the confrontation. The Pentecostal demonstrators were visibly shaken when the rainbow people approached the Parliament building. They began to pray fervently and called the approaching Rainbow People "Satan's lackeys". Their speaking in tongues reached a feverish pitch. Many of them seriously seemed to fear the approaching Rainbow People, who conservative religious preachers and psychoanalysts (Asser Stenbäck, Lars-Olof Schalin, and Kalle Achté) had traditionally described as a threat to the children and social fabric of Finland (see article in Finnish about psychoanalytic scaremongering).
The Pentecostals wielded large black Bibles as weapons. As the Rainbow People began to ascend the Parliament stairs, the Pentecostals started to read the classical death sentence from the Book of Moses (3 Lev. 18:22-23), but stopped just before the sentence Finnish gays and lesbians have heard thousands of times: "They shall be put to death!"
A scuffle broke out because of this provocation. Some Rainbow People crossed the police line and the Pentecostals started to hit them with their heavy Bibles. The armed police and security guards immediately prevented the escalation of violence.
When the law was passed in the final vote on the following day, an autumn storm suddenly broke out with rain and thunder above the City of Helsinki. The Christian organizers claimed that this was a sign that God disapproved of the decision of the Finnish Parliament.