Nat. Coalition Party delegates endorse abolition of mandatory Swedish, gender-neutral marriage
Leaders call language resolutions “contradictory”
The leaders of the National Coalition Party say that the party does not plan to abolish mandatory studies of the second domestic language (Swedish for speakers of Finnish, and Finnish for speakers of Swedish) in Finnish comprehensive schools, even though the party’s congress held in Jyväskylä during the weekend passed a resolution on the matter on Sunday.
The delegates passed a version that would replace mandatory studies of Swedish for Finnish-speakers with a choice of languages for a second foreign language. The measure passed narrowly, by 284 votes to 281.
Party Chairman and Minister of Finance Jyrki Katainen, who was earlier re-elected to the leadership unopposed, squirmed somewhat at a press conference after the meeting, as he tried to put a positive face on the politically awkward decision.
Katainen pointed out that in another measure, the meeting gave its approval to the position of the Swedish language under the Finnish constitution. “To the extent that there is a contradiction, it is not necessary to change the status quo”, he said, suggesting that the party’s leadership does not plan to push forward the call to drop mandatory Swedish in schools.
As Katainen sees it, the party wants to promote freedom of choice, which is in line with the ideology of the National Coalition Party. However, he added that the party also wants to secure the constitutionally-guaranteed position of the minority language.
Some of the party’s more conservative supporters were dealt a shock when delegates voted in favour of a gender-neutral marriage law, which would allow same-sex couples to be officially married.
At present, couples of the same gender can register their partnerships, with rights that fall somewhat short of those in a marriage.
A similar measure at the party’s previous congress two years ago failed to pass. This year’s resolution comes hot on the heels of a similar measure passed by the opposition Social Democratic Party two weeks earlier.
The measure, put forward by the party executive states: “The reasons for establishing a union between two people should be questions that are up to the partners themselves, and the state should not have a need to interfere with what gender or orientation those establishing a marriage represent".
The party executive emphasised that the resolution does not mean that the party is interfering in the internal affairs of churches or religious communities. In a possible Parliamentary vote on the issue, the National Coalition Party MPs will have free hands to vote according to their conscience.
Another challenge to the social conservatives in the party was a resolution calling for the abolition of confessional teaching of religion in schools. The party voted to replace it with instruction on knowledge of all religions.
Supporters of the measure pointed out that increased immigration and a growing number of religious denominations mean that under current legislation, large municipalities need to expand their selection of religious instruction in schools.
The congress voted on Sunday to elect MP Sampsa Kataja, Minister of Education Henna Virkkunen, and MP Anne-Mari Virolainen as its vice chairs.
Kataja (38), and Virkkunen (38), had held the posts before, and were re-elected. Virolainen (44), is new in the post, which became available when MEP Eija-Riitta Korhola relinquished her post.
Virolainen defeated her rival candidate, MP Tapani Mäkinen.
Heading the party’s Council will be Laura Räty, a member of the Helsinki City Council, giving the party leadership an increasingly female slant.
The Council is the highest decision-making body of the National Coalition Party between party congresses.
National Coalition Party