HELSINKI Finland's parliament was on Thursday set to debate repealing a law allowing same-sex marriage, acting in response to a citizens' petition just two weeks before the law was due to come into force.
The law, passed in 2014 by the previous parliament, will end the distinction between same-sex unions and heterosexual marriages, giving same-sex couples equal rights to adopt children and share a surname.
But the organisers of the "Genuine Marriage" petition collected more than 100,000 signatures demanding a repeal - twice the number needed to secure a debate in parliament - by arguing that a child was entitled to have both a mother and a father.
In a surprise move, parliament this time also scheduled a formal vote, likely to take place on Friday.
"A child has a mother and a father, this is how it's always been, and how it continues to be," Mika Niikko of the nationalist Finns party, a member of the ruling coalition, said in a statement. "As lawmakers, we are responsible for the environment that children who have lost their biological parents are adopted into."
The issue has a chequered history in Finland, the only country in the Nordic region that has not yet recognised same-sex marriage, although gay couples have been able to enter into registered partnerships since 2002.
Bills on same-sex marriage had been blocked three times since 2006 until a petition brought about the 2014 bill, which passed by 101 votes to 90.
Although the new parliament elected in 2015 has a more conservative make-up, many lawmakers are opposed in principle to revising recent decisions.
"My assessment is that this petition will not succeed," said Mikko Karna, a lawmaker from the Centre Party, also part of the ruling coalition.
"I truly hope that people will respect the principle of predictable lawmaking, regardless of what they think on the subject in question here ... It would undermine parliamentary democracy if this was voted through."
(Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl and Tuomas Forsell; Editing by Kevin Liffey)