Finnish MP who said ‘sinful’ gays are ‘genetic degeneration’ not guilty of hate speech, court rules

Päivi Räsänen, a Finnish MP, is seen wearing an off-white turtleneck with a cream jacket

A court has dismissed hate speech charges against the anti-LGBT+ Finnish MP Päivi Räsänen.

The Helsinki district court on Wednesday (30 March) dismissed three charges against Räsänen, a former Finnish interior minister and ex-chair of the Christian Democratic Party, related to statements she made between 2004 and 2019. 

Räsänen, who is also a medical doctor, described being gay as a “developmental disorder” in an online opinion letter published in 2004, Reuters reported. She also called homosexuality a “genetic degeneration” during a radio programme in 2019. 

The MP also characterised being gay as “a shame and a sin” in posts on Twitter in 2019.

The court acknowledged that Päivi Räsänen’s statements were somewhat derogatory towards the LGBT+ community but not to the point they wouldn’t be protected under freedom of speech, the Helsinki Times reported. 

The Helsinki district court estimated that some of her statements were not intended to insult or degrade gay people. 

The court also dismissed a charge against Juhana Pohjola, a representative of the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese of Finland, also related to the statements made by Räsänen. 

Both denied the charges against them, arguing the statements fell under freedom of speech and freedom of religion. 

Päivi Räsänen told YLE that she “expected” the verdict and would have been more “surprised and shocked” if the ruling “had been different”. 

“I’m also grateful that I got this chance to stand up for freedom of speech, stand up for freedom of religion,” Räsänen said. 

However, prosecutor Anu Mantila was surprised that the court “interpreted the statements differently than the prosecution”, and she believed that was “why they viewed that the limits of freedom of speech weren’t breached”. 

“It’s my impression that this is because the elements that infringed on equality and the prohibition of discrimination weren’t taken into consideration accordingly,” Mantila added. 

The ruling can be appealed to a higher court, and Mantila said there was a “high probability” that such an action might happen in the future. 

Kerttu Tarjamo, secretary general for Finnish LGBT+ rights organisation Seta, said it’s important that “hate speech directed at LGBTIQA+ people” is dealt with in the legal system “even when it is displayed in a religious context or is motivated by religion”. 

“It is obvious that Räsänen’s public opinions regarding gay people are deeply offensive to many persons belonging to sexual minorities,” Tarjamo said. “We hope that the matter will still be dealt with by the highest courts.”

Tarjamo warned Päivi Räsänen’s opinions and the ruling could potentially lead to more discrimination against the LGBT+ community.

The LGBT+ rights advocate added it was “high time” that a “generation” of queer kids “could grow up in Finland without being exposed to the hurt opinions” of top politicians.