Estonia becomes the latest European country to extend equal family rights to LGBTQ people, Source: Depositphotos

Estonia becomes the first ex-Soviet country to legalize gay marriages

Estonia becomes the first ex-Soviet country to legalize gay marriages

The law also regulates the possibility for same-sex couples to adopt children

Earlier today, the Riigikogu (Estonia’s Parliament) passed a new law, which legalizes marriage for same-sex couples, thus becoming the first post-Soviet country to do so. That this happened in the month of June, which is generally when most Pride parades take place around the world, is also highly symbolic and poignant.

The new law was passed with 55 MPs voting for the bill and 34 against it. The progressive law was promulgated by a coalition of liberal and social democratic parties, supporting the government of Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.

It seems that the time was ripe for such a shift, given that societal attitudes have also changed. In the largely secular Baltic country of 1.3 million, 53% of the population supported same-sex marriage in a 2023 poll by the Centre for Human Rights. A decade ago, that share was only 34%.

The largest opposition to gay marriage can be found among the ethnic Russian minority. Russians constitute a quarter of the Estonian population, and among them, 60% are against this.

Equality in the family domain

Tomas Jermalavicius, Head of Studies at the International Centre for Defence and Security, speaking to Reuters, explained that the move to push the legislation through parliament was quite timely on the part of the government, as they had really sensed the moment when the tide turned in favour of more societal acceptance of alternative sexuality and equal rights.

In addition to marriage, people also have the option of entering into a cohabitation agreement as an alternative. The new law provides for the provisions necessary for the implementation of the Cohabitation Act, which are currently missing in the legal system, and creates a simplified procedure for the transition from a cohabitation agreement to marriage.

What’s more, same-sex couples gained the right to adopt their spouse’s child with the consent of the biological parent. The principle that the child's biological parents primarily have the rights and obligations related to the child, however, has also been preserved.

Up until 1991, Estonia was part of the Soviet Union, however, it’s the second ex-Communist country in Eastern Europe to legalize gay marriages after Slovenia. The latter legalized them almost a year ago.

The new family law will enter into force on 1 January 2024.



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