Politicians and activists expressed their views on the passage of the Cohabitation Act by a 40-38 vote in the Parliament today.
Marko Mihkelson, IRL MP, commented on Facebook on his decision to abstain from voting, saying that in principle he has always supported the bill.
"I am convinced that Estonia's ability to succeed at the international level is also dependent on how open and tolerant our society is," he said to explain his decision to not vote against the bill, but added that: "I did not vote for the bill either because its authors have failed to explain its nature and aims sufficiently, because many of the proponents have started labelling the doubters and the opposition all the while talking of tolerance, and because the hasty processing of the bill has led to fissures in the society. We have a lot to learn from these proceedings," he said.
Kristen Michal of the Reform Party said before the vote that the bill has been in development for years, so all references to it being unexpected and rushed is distortion of the facts. "Even the Chancellor of Justice has ruled the bill to be in accord with the constitution. This law will not change what marriage represents," he said.
Erki Nool of IRL, who was absent from the voting but strongly opposed the act during the first two readings, told Delfi that he is away on official duties and "very sorry" that the act was passed but says he believes that his absence had no impact on the result.
"To be honest, Wednesday's proceedings showed how the power lines run and what the outcome would be. The Reform Party had very good control of the votes. The result could have theoretically been 41 for and 39 against; my presence, or that of one or two other MPs, wouldn't have made a difference," he said.
He also said that the act will probably generate a number of problems in the future. "This is the most substandard act that this Parliament has passed, leaving aside all arguments to whether one like the act or not. No one can say that this act is of good quality or good, many of the details will need to be revised."
Kadri Simson, one of four Center Party members who supported the bill, said that she has read a number of public statements and opinion pieces from both sides and that most of her supporters admit that the bill will have little to no impact on them personally.
Eiki Nestor of the Social Democrats said that he voted yes because the bill has the support of Estonian youth and he would not wish to explain to his children and grandchildren why he voted against it. He added: "This bill is not a "coalition bill" but was proposed by individual MPs, so claims that the coalition has forced it through are not correct."
Imre Sooäär, Reform Party MP and an initiator of the Act, said: “The Civil Partnership Act is another step closer to a more tolerant and socially inclusive society. I am extremely thankful to my colleagues who supported the bill as real statesmen in spite of strong opposition, and who stood for democracy and human rights even under great pressure.”
Peeter Rebane, a London-based film director and proucer and advocate for the Act: “It was a long fight for us to achieve something so basic and obvious. This act will guarantee the same-sex couples their fundamental rights that so-called traditional couples take for granted – a right to establish a family with the loved one, raise children, and enjoy financial benefits equal to married couples.”
Kari Käsper, head of the Estonian Human Rights Center, a human rights watchdog NGO: “By passing this law, Estonia gave an example to all countries in this region who hopefully will follow us. I am extremely glad that we are drifting away from Soviet-minded homophobia and moving towards free and tolerant society where all people are valued the same way and everyone has equal rights,” said