Don’t Force Citizens to Choose Between Love and Gender Identity

Supporters of LGBTQ rights parade in Helsinki, Finland.

Target: Grand Chamber of European Court of Human Rights and Supreme Court of Finland

Goal: Stop Finland from implementing law that discriminates against transgender individuals

Stop the injustice that Finnish citizen, Heli Hamalainen, has faced: in order for Hamalainen’s gender surgery to be recognized, she must first turn her eighteen-year marriage into a domestic partnership or divorce. She is being forced to choose between her gender identity and the individual that she loves.

Hamalainen has undergone both a psychiatric assessment and sterilization, Finland’s legal requirements for gender-change recognition, and has been battling the court since her gender reassignment surgery in 2009. Her case was brought to the European Court of Human Rights that same year, but in 2012 the Court ruled against her. Despite the European Court’s statement that gender identity is “one of the most basic essentials of self-determination,” the ruling found that the Finnish government had not violated her privacy and family life rights, nor had it discriminated against her.

Requiring her to be sterilized? Requiring her to divorce her partner or dissolve her marriage? Hamalainen’s rights have been infringed and she has been discriminated against.

The case was referred to the Grand Chamber of European Court of Human Rights in April 2013, and the Grand Chamber upheld the ruling on later that year. Hamalainen has had a child with her partner, but with her gender change, she has been legally stripped of her parental rights. She will have to adopt her biological child.

This is not a case about same-sex marriage, it is a case about preserving existing marriages.  Transgender couples in Austria and Germany can remain married throughout the gender recognition process, despite the fact that same-sex marriages are not recognized in either country. Coming out as transgender should not strip you of your parental and marital rights. This is discrimination, and it should be immediately reversed.


Dear Grand Chamber of European Court of Human Rights and Supreme Court of Finland,

Heli Hamalainen’s case is an egregious violation of human rights. Despite your understanding that gender identity is fundamental to self-determination, you have agreed to strip her of other basic rights: her marriage and her child. A civil partnership does not offer the same level of protection to their child as a legal marriage, and religious convictions prevent them from filing for divorce. Regardless, no individual should be forced to choose between gender identity and the person whom they love, especially as the marriage was conducted legally eighteen-years prior.

Finnish law is both discriminatory and distressing. Hamalainen’s case is not about same-sex marriage, but about upholding the rights and benefits of a legal marriage previously ordained. Austria and Germany recognize transgender marriages despite conflicting same-sex marriage laws: Finland should too. I urge both the Grand Chamber of European Court of Human Rights and the Supreme Court of Finland to reconsider their rulings and grant Heli Hamalainen her gender identity and uphold both her legal protections through marriage and parental entitlements. There is no question that this is a violation of human rights and the ruling must be reconsidered.


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Photo Credit: PanchoS via Wikimedia Commons

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