Reform leader: Opposition will fight referendum on marriage

Reform leader Kaja Kallas on Wednesday's
Reform leader Kaja Kallas on Wednesday's "Esimene stuudio". Source: ERR

Holding a marriage referendum at the same time as local elections would divide society, opposition Reform Party leader Kaja Kallas says, as well as clouding other important local issues. As a result, her party will fight the project. In any case, amending the constitution is not like amending statute law, Kallas says, adding that the latter already defines marriage.

Whereas both Estonian citizens and residents – citizens of other countries as well as stateless residents – can vote in the local government elections in autumn 2021, the marriage referendum would only be open to citizens, which Kallas said will have the effect of dividing society. 

Speaking on ETV politics show "Esimene stuudio" Wednesday night, the Reform Party leader also noted that the existing Family Law Act already defines marriage as a contract entered into between one man and one woman, making an amendment to the constitution along the same lines unnecessary. 

Kallas also noted that amending the constitution was a completely different, and more complex, matter than amending an existing statute

Kallas said that the current Center-EKRE-Isamaa coalition needed to familiarize itself with the constitution more. 

"This governing coalition has not shown much that they have read or got to know the constitution, but I would advise them to do so regarding this referendum," Kallas said. 

Holding a referendum concurrently with local elections would also run the risk of burying other, important local issues. 

Turning to the Supreme Court or the president was not off the table in the event of the referendum going ahead, she said. 

Kallas also expressed concern about a deal in summer which saw a U.S. law firm hired to represent Estonia's interests in money laundering cases aboard, principally in the U.S. 

The deal was signed in late June between finance minister Martin Helme (EKRE) and Louis Freeh, a former FBI chief who was senior partner at the firm at the time. 

Jallas said that the exact details of how the representation would work were not clear to her, adding that the alleged conflict of interest the firm – Freeh, Sporkin & Sullivan – has, having previously represented alleged Russian money launderers, was still an issue. 

Warnings had been given about the firm and the deal, valued at €3 million, for two years' work, despite Helme's claims to the contrary, she said. 

"Martin Helme himself has said, / --- / that being caught lying would end a politician's career quickly. Now we expect the Minister of Finance to act on his words, because he has obviously been caught lying [about the lack of warning over the law firm]," Kallas said, adding that were she his prime minister or a member of the government, she would be very cautious about Martin Helme. 

Kallas also said that in her view this weekend's WRC Rally Estonia – the first full-calendar WRC event in Estonia and the first race since the international coronavirus pandemic began – should take place without spectators, due to the risk of new COVID-19 outbreaks. 

Thousands of spectator passes have been sold, in batches, with other precautions including the banning of late-night alcohol sales in the three South Estonian counties hosting the rally. 


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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