Coalition Parties Split on Gay Rights
The coalition parties are at odds over gay rights in their responses to the justice minister's letter to the four parliamentary parties in August that expressed concerns about current laws - which do not allow same-sex partnerships - and laid out four possible options on the table.
IRL, the more conservative of the coalition parties, said it supports the status quo - therefore categorically rejecting the call for more legal rights to same-sex couples.
By contrast, the Reform Party - in which the justice minister is a leading figure - said it supports a gender-neutral partnership law. “We certainly wish to discuss related details, including the question of adoption," said the Reform Party statement.
The four options outlined by the justice minister were to leave things as they are; establish a package of various civil unions for financial, custody and inheritance rights; to reform the marriage law so that unmarried couples have equal rights as married couples; or to legalize same-sex marriage altogether.
The Reform Party said it might accept options two and three as alternatives to solve the everyday problems and unequal rights of unmarried couples, but it stopped short of option four.
The Social Democratic Party and the Centre Party, which have in the past been more supportive of gay rights than the coalition parties, have until October to reply to the justice minister.
In May, Chancellor of Justice Indrek Teder proposed that the Ministry of Justice introduce legislation to give same-sex partnerships a legal foundation. Teder said that the current legal framework does not ensure adequate protection of the rights of de-facto cohabitation partners, and is thus contrary to the constitution. In his view, the law needs to be changed to cover areas such as property ownership and legal succession.
Predictably, the Council of Churches has expressed staunch opposition to same-sex marriage.