Government Approves Cohabitation Bill ({{commentsTotal}})

The government today approved the controversial cohabitation bill that regulates financial, inheritance, and care and visitation rights for cohabiting couples, regardless of their sex.

The bill has sparked heated public debate. Religious and conservative campaigners are demanding a referendum on the issue and accuse the initiators of undermining family values, while proponents point out that the majority of children in Estonia are already living with single parents or unmarried couples, reported.

The bill takes into account the position of Chancellor of Justice Indrek Teder, who said that current laws do not offer enough legal protection to cohabiting couples and that same sex couples are entitled to the protection of the same basic rights - the lack of legal regulation therefore violates the constitution.

Cohabitation can be registered at a notary by a couple where at least one party is an Estonian resident, and neither is married or under another valid cohabitation contract. The cohabitation contract will be included in the population register and marital property register.

If approved by the parliament, the bill should enter into force on January 1, 2015.

As there are no parliamentary meetings next week, the bill would only head to the Parliament at the beginning of June, and would only pass the first of three readings.

A daily speculated that the bill could then be shelved, as next year's parliamentary elections are on the horizon and politicians may not have enough courage to push the controversial bill through.