Helsinki - Finnish Archbishop Kari Makinen Tuesday said he favoured a gender-neutral marriage bill, as efforts continued to collect signatures in support of a petition calling for parliament to allow same-sex marriages.

“I consider it as an important goal. I hope we can reach equality on the matter,” Makinen, head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church since 2010, told broadcaster MTV.

Makinen said there was debate in the church, but that there was “a will to consider all people as equal.”

Traditionally the church has considered marriage to be a union between a man and woman.

A week ago, a citizen's initiative to allow same-sex marriages was launched after a parliamentary committee in February opted to table a proposal on a gender-neutral marriage bill.

The call to allow same-sex marriage is just one of the petitions underway after Finland introduced the Citizen's Initiative Act last year. A petition signed by at least 50,000 people can be forwarded to parliament for consideration.

The same-sex marriage petition garnered enough signatories to clear the hurdle on its first day, and as of Tuesday been backed by over 138,000 citizens.

Organizers hope to collect 250,000 names before the deadline in September. Finland has a population of 5.4 million people.

Finland's Nordic neighbours have earlier approved same-sex marriages. - Sapa-dpa