Government not in tune on Cohabitation Bill implementing acts

Tallinn Gay Pride, an annual event promoting diversity and equality (Postimees/Scanpix)
11/6/2015 2:05 PM
Category: Society

The Estonian government discussed the implementing act, which is needed for the Cohabitation Act to enter into force in 2016, at the Cabinet meeting on Thursday. The Cabinet is split on the issue.

Although the previous Parliament passed a law allowing cohabiting couples, irrespective of the gender of either partner, the right to register their relationship at a notary and qualify for other benefits similar to marriage, some implementing acts still have to be passed, in order for the law to enter into force from January 1 in 2016.

The Social Democrats and the Reform Party – the previous coalition partners – and IRL, which fiercely opposed the original bill and is the third coalition partner following the March 1 election, differ in opinion on the implementing acts.

On Thursday's Cabinet meeting it was decided that the government sends the implementing act to the Parliament's Legal Affairs Committe for amendments. The Cabinet also declined an opportunity to endorse the implementing act before sending it to the Parliament, due to lack of consensus.

“We have to be honest – three coalition partners differ politically in this. Two out of three coalition parties think that the law that was passed last year, should be implemented as planned, to avoid legal disputes,” Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas said, a reference to continuing opposition by conservative IRL.

In spring when the coalition agreement was signed, the current Justice Minister Urmas Reinsalu, who was the leader of IRL at the time, was one of the opponents of the bill that gives homosexual couples the same rights as heterosexual ones, publicly saying that instead of the Cabinet, the Parliament should discuss the implementing acts.

That indicates long disputes ahead, especially considering the fact that IRL's faction in the Parliament is headed by Priit Sibul – a conservative Christian, publicly against any form of nontraditional marriage or civil partnership.

Arguments about Cohabitation Act fueled debate and dominated domestic political news for much of the late summer and early autumn in 2014, but the bill was eventually, albeit narrowly, approved by the Parliament, with 40 MPs voting in favor, and 38 against.

But to enter into force in 2016, some implementing acts will have to be passed first and these require 51 of 101 MPs to be in favor. If IRL decided to vote against these, the coalition would have to rely on opposition votes, most probably courting some member of the Center Party and the Free Party, as the Conservative People's Party (EKRE) is certain to vote against.

S. Tambur

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