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Estonia legalizes same-sex marriage, a first for Central Europe

Estonia‘s parliament passed a law legalising same-sex marriage, making it the first central European nation to do so. While much of western Europe has already legalised same-sex marriage, it remains prohibited in many former communist central European countries that were once part of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact.

About the Estonia same-sex marriage bill:

  • The bill was passed with 55 votes in the 101-seat parliament, with support from the coalition of liberal and social democratic parties led by Prime Minister Kallas, who won the 2023 election.
  • The new law will become effective in 2024. A recent poll by the Centre for Human Rights found that 53% of Estonians support same-sex marriage, compared to 34% a decade ago.
  • However, many still consider homosexuality to be unacceptable, including a significant portion of the ethnic-Russian minority, which makes up one quarter of the country’s population.

Why same-sex marriage?

Half of the Estonian LGBTQ+ community has experienced harassment recently, according to the government.

  • Tomas Jermalavicius, Head of Studies at the International Centre for Defence and Security, believes that Estonia’s successful legalisation of same-sex marriage was aided by shifting public opinion and Kallas’ strong electoral victory.
  • Latvia and Lithuania, the other two Baltic nations formerly annexed by the Soviet Union, have yet to legalise same-sex marriage, with same-sex partnership bills stuck in their parliaments.

Background of Estonia same-sex marriage bill:

  • The bill was introduced in October 2020, but due to COVID-19-related delays, it was not discussed until 2021.
  • The bill would grant same-sex couples the same rights and benefits as heterosexual couples, including the right to adopt and inherit property.
  • Currently, Estonia only recognizes registered partnerships, which do not offer the same level of legal protection as marriage.
  • The bill has faced opposition from conservative and religious groups who argue that it goes against traditional family values and the institution of marriage.
  • However, supporters argue that denying same-sex couples the right to marry is a violation of their human rights and creates inequality under the law.
  • The Estonian parliament is expected to vote on the bill in 2021, but it was unclear back then. But now  the bill has pasa , Estonia becomes the first country in the Baltic region to legalize same-sex marriage.

Estonia has made significant strides in LGBTQ+ rights in recent years. In 2014, the country legalised same-sex partnerships and in 2016, the government passed an anti-discrimination law that protects LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination in employment, education, and other areas.

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