BY ROB SALERNO – Voters in Finland will be presented with two choices in an upcoming presidential election: conservative former finance minister Sauli Niinisto and openly gay Green League candidate Pekka Haavisto. While Niinisto is predicted to win in the runoff vote scheduled for Feb 5, if Haavisto pulls off an upset, Finland would be the third European country governed by an openly gay person — a club that includes Iceland and Belgium.
The Associated Press reports that “the president has a largely ceremonial role and is not involved in daily politics, but is considered an important shaper of public opinion in the small Nordic country.”
Openly gay Finnish presidential candidate
Pekka Haavisto (artist’s rendering).
Meanwhile, The Atlantic gets a look at life for gay men in Tajikistan, one of the impoverished former Soviet republics sandwiched between Afghanistan and China. While homosexuality is not illegal in Tajikistan, it probably doesn’t come as a major shock that homosexuals have a rough go in the republic, either, and frequently face violence and extortion. That many Tajik gays flee to the relative safety of Russia, where officials regularly propose laws banning being gay in public, speaks to how far the community has to go.
And in the US, the prospects for gay marriage rights just got better in Washington and New Jersey, where vote counters now believe there are majorities in the houses of each state to support passage of gay marriage laws, and in Maryland, where the governor has put gay marriage at the top of the legislative agenda. If passed, they’ll be the seventh, eighth and ninth states to allow same-sex marriage (not counting California, obviously).