Estonia becomes the first Baltic country to legalize same-sex marriage

The Estonian Parliament or Riigikogu approved this Tuesday legalization of marriage for same-sex couples and the extension of certain parental and adoption rights to include these unions.

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The amendment to the Family Law, ratified with 55 votes in favor and 34 against after a marathon session that lasted much of the night, will come into force as of the 1st. January 2024.

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The government of Prime Minister Kaja Kallas also survived a motion of no confidence related to this bill. “This decision takes nothing from anyone, but gives to many,” she stressed after the vote.

This decision takes nothing from anyone, but gives to many.

“Every person should have the right to marry the person they love,” Kallas added, noting that she “was proud of Estonia.”

The amendment modifies the legal definition of the institution of marriage in such a way that it contemplates the union of two natural persons of legal age, regardless of their sex.

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Same-sex couples already had the right to establish a civil union in Estonia since 2014. The approved law corrects the inequalities of rights that have persisted until now between homosexual and heterosexual couples.

Estonia thus becomes the second country in Eastern Europe after Slovenia to adopt equal marriage and leaves neighboring Latvia and Lithuania behind, where the figure of same-sex civil unions does not even exist.

Referring to criticism that same-sex marriage could undermine the traditional family model, Kallas noted that “it’s a decision that takes nothing away from anyone, but gives many something very important.”

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“It also shows that our society cares and that we respect each other. I am proud of Estonia,” concluded the Prime Minister.

According to a survey carried out at the beginning of April, commissioned by the Estonian Center for Human Rights, 53% of the citizens of the Baltic country support equal marriage -compared to 34% who did so in 2012-, while in the age group between 20 and 29 years old, even 75% do so.

The Minister of Social Protection, Signe Riisalo, thanked the LGTBI population for their “understanding and patience all these years” and stressed that “despite the fact that these are specific changes at a technical and legal level”, one cannot forget the importance of this type of legislative initiatives. “Marriage equality makes us a more considerate society,” she noted.

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This is also an important fact as it is also about the first country in the former Soviet Union to legalize same-sex marriage.

As for its neighboring countries, also former Soviet republics, Latvia has legal protections in place for LGBTI people, but marriage is not yet legalized. In Lithuania, meanwhile, these protections are aimed at curbing discrimination, but there is no legislation supporting same-sex marriage or civil unions between gay people.


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