According to the daily Eesti Päevaleht, Priit Sibul of IRL said the party thinks the cohabitation bill, which passed the first reading on June 19, is not needed in Estonia, but since it has gained prominence, it should be put to a public vote. In total, three referendums have been held in Estonia since 1991 - on reinstating the Republic of Estonia, on the constitution and on joining the European Union.
Last year, Sibul came under heavy criticism when he equated homosexuality with zoophilia and his party eventually made an official apology.
His bill needs to go to the third reading, when a majority will decide whether or not the issue should be put to a referendum. If it is rejected at the referendum, the president is forced to announce early elections. Sibul denied that this is the real aim of his party, which was recently replaced by the Social Democrats as the coalition partner of the Reform Party, because the referendum would be held on March 1, the same date as the scheduled parliamentary elections will be held.
One of the initiators of the cohabitation bill, the Reform Party’s Valdo Randpere, denied the bill includes options to legalize same sex marriage and adoption rights for same sex couples, saying the issue is not important enough for a referendum.
As of Monday evening, more than one-half of IRL’s parliamentary faction (22 MPs in total) had supported Sibul’s bill, and also four Center Party MPs.
In May last year, the conservative Foundation for the Protection of Family and Tradition handed over thousands of signatures to the speaker of Parliament. A petition in support of the gender-neutral cohabitation bill, also with signatures in the thousands, was submitted to the Parliament prior to the first reading this year.