Sunday

25th Feb 2024

Estonia same-sex law breaks taboo in former Soviet states

  • Rainbow flag in Tallinn street (Photo: Janis Zakis)

Estonia on Thursday (9 October) became the first former Soviet republic to grant equal rights to same-sex couples.

MPs in the Riigikogu passed the bill by a narrow majority of 40 against 38 with 10 abstentions.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The Cohabitation Act was backed by the Reform Party of 35-year old prime minister Tavi Roivas, the EU’s youngest leader.

It means that from 2016 gay couples will have the same rights as straight couples in terms of inheritance, access to partners in hospitals, or joint adoption of children.

Pro-LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-sexual, and intersex) activists welcomed the decision.

“This is a glimpse of light in the Baltic region”, Juris Lavrikovs, a spokesman for Ilga-Europe, a Brussels-based NGO, said.

“The Estonian vote is very important because Latvia looks to Estonia and Lithuania looks to Latvia as models of social development”.

Speaking to EUobserver from a gay rights congress in Riga the same day, he noted that Latvia has been moving in the opposite direction to Estonia.

Its MPs are digesting a new law to limit sex education, including LGBTI education, in schools. Its government also declined to send any officials to Ilga-Europe’s event.

Back in Estonia, Liisa Pakosta, an MP from the opposition Pro Patria and Res Publica Union party, voted against the Cohabitation Act.

She said it contains clauses which put the interests of parents above those of children in adoption applications or in parents’ right of access to children if a couple splits up.

“Children are not objects to be handed around in the interests of grown-ups”, she told this website.

She added that the creation of parallel registration regimes for straight couples and same-sex couples will cause a legal mess.

Pakosta denied that she or her party is homophobic. But she said homophobia does exist in the Riigikogu: “I don’t deny it. But it’s a personal issue and it doesn’t run along party lines”.

Meanwhile, the Estonian vote took place in a nasty atmosphere.

LGBTI activists say that a US evangelical group, the World Congress of Families, was funded by the Kremlin to organise an email and leafletting campaign which associated homosexuality with paedophilia.

“We’re seeing these forces becoming more and more organised”, Lavrikovs noted.

“The way the MPs [who backed the bill] argued in parliament was exemplary … they stuck to their principles instead of falling victim to black PR and manipulation”.

The World Congress of Families could not be reached for a comment on Thursday.

But Pakosta said pro-LGBTI campaigners also “overstepped the line”.

She said she got “hundreds” of emails and posts on her Facebook page, some of which attacked her for living in an unregistered couple with her male partner and children.

“Many emails from both sides went over the boundaries, not just of good taste, but of basic respect for people’s individual choice”.

Letter

Growing momentum for EU strategy on LGBTI Rights

In an article earlier this week by EUobserver, four top candidates for the next president of the European Commission – Jean-Claude Juncker, Ska Keller, Martin Schulz and Guy Verhofstadt, expressed their support for an EU strategy on LGBTI human rights.

Slovakia bitterly divided on social issues

Slovakia will hold a referendum on marriage and gay rights this weekend, amid a debate so bitter the country's president has warned of "broken" social relations.

EU court strikes down gay asylum tests

Gay people seeking asylum in Europe will no longer have to take tests based on stereotypes or be forced to provide images to prove their sexual orientation.

Opinion

EU plan to let 17-year olds drive trucks is crazy

It's an astonishing proposition rooted in political interest rather than facts, with potentially dire consequences for all road users — especially for people who walk and cycle, warns the European Cycling Federation.

EU deal on new gig-workers rules unlikely before June elections

Another provisional agreement on improving working conditions for platform workers fall apart on Friday, as four member states decided not to support it — making the chances of a directive before the June European elections unlikely.

Latest News

  1. EU rewards Tusk's Poland on rule of law with €137bn
  2. UK-EU relations defrosting ahead of near-certain Labour win
  3. EU paid Russia €420-per-capita for fossil fuels since war began
  4. After two years of war, time to hit Putin's LNG exports
  5. Creating the conditions for just peace in Ukraine
  6. Energy and minerals disputes overshadow new EU-ACP pact
  7. Germany speeds up Georgia and Morocco asylum returns
  8. How Amazon lobbyists could be banned from EU Parliament

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us