Finland has become the 12th European country to introduce same sex marriage. The vote was 105 MPs in favour of the change, with 92 against, but was expected by many observers to be even closer.

The vote was the first time that a citizens’ initiative, in which members of the public sign a petition to force a vote, has reached the statute books. The initiative requires 50,000 voter signatures within six months – a number which was surpassed in the first 24 hours, and which had reached 166,000 by the time it came to Parliament. Many of the Bill’s supporters waved rainbow flags and banners outside the Parliament building in celebration, crying, ‘I do!’ – which had become the moment’s catchphrase. A correspondent for the Yle public service broadcaster described the scenes as ‘a Carnival-like atmosphere.’

The reform will take well over a year to finalise, although registered partnerships have been legal since 2002.

Paulo Corte-Real, Co-Chair of ILGA Europe’s Executive Board, pointed out that today is not the final stage in the campaign for marriage equality. The Bill will now proceed to the Finnish Parliament’s Grand Committee before returning to be reviewed by all members of parliament.

Joyce Hamilton, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board, said: ‘This great step signals Finland’s strong intent to join its Scandinavian neighbours in recognising the rights of all couples, regardless of sexual orientation and gender. We hope that the upcoming Grand Committee discussions and subsequent votes by MPs are as positive and inspiring as the vote we have witnessed today.’