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Estonia’s parliament likely to debate same-sex marriage by public demand

Estonia’s parliament likely to debate same-sex marriage by public demand

  • A petition supporting same-sex marriage has broken records in Estonia but the majority of citizens still oppose marriage equality.
Estonia's Riigikogu.

The Estonian Green Party is celebrating after its petition calling for same-sex marriage broke all records.

The party posted the petition on the official parliamentary site – ahvaalgatus.ee. Petitions on the site which gather over 1,000 signatures are debated in the Riigikogu, Estonia’s parliament.

In this case, the petition has now secured over 30,000 signatures – making it the biggest in the site’s history. While that may seem small by the standards of other countries, the European nation only has a population of around 1,329,000.

Kadri Org, democracy expert at the Estonian Cooperation Assembly/ Rahvaalgatus.ee, told ERR News:

‘Rahvaalgatus.ee has been operating for four-and-a-half years from March 2016. Since then, 51 collective proposals have been drafted and sent to the Riigikogu through the platform.

‘Most of the collective proposals that have been sent to the Riigikogu have received a few thousand signatures maximum. The second-highest number of supportive signatures that a petition has received is slightly over 7,000.’

That 7,000 name petition was about animal rights. Likewise, a petition to end fur farming in Estonia gathered over 6,000 signatures and generated a debate by Riigikogu members.

The Greens’ petition is open until 24 December. After that, officials will check it for legal compliance before the Board of the Riigikogu appoint a steering committee to discuss it.

Most Estonians against marriage equality

However, even if parliament does debate the subject, the Greens won’t be part of the conversation. They currently don’t have any seats in the 101-member Riigikogu.

Moreover, marriage equality faces an even higher hurdle next year in the former Soviet state.

Next year, the country is due to hold a referendum on whether to change the constitution to say marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

This is a doubling-down on the anti-LGBT+ law. Section 1 of the Family Act already states marriage is only open to opposite-sex couples.

However, despite the fact that same-sex marriage is illegal in Estonia, a legal loophole means the country does recognize married EU same-sex couples for residency purposes.

Meanwhile a survey this summer found that LGBT+ Estonians have a long way to go in challenging prejudice.

The Institute of Societal Studies found 55% of Estonian citizens oppose marriage equality. Just 38% support it and 7% are undecided.

Moreover, voters who support the governing parties with a majority of seats in the Riigikogu – the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE), the Center Party and Isamaa – are more likely to be against same-sex marriage.

Voters who support opposition parties – the Reform Party, the Social Democratic Party (SDE) and Estonia 200 – are more in favor.