MP: Wording of marriage referendum question may become clear next week

Paul Puustusmaa.
Paul Puustusmaa. Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

The coalition may reach an agreement on the definition of marriage for the potential marriage referendum planned for next year, as early as next week, the chair of the Riigikogu's Constitutional Committee says.

Paul Puustusmaa (EKRE), committee chair, told ERR Friday the topic of the wording of the question will be discussed in party groups - there are three political parties in the coalition, Center, EKRE and Isamaa - and the coalition council, next week. The question to be put to the electorate itself could be formulated in the next couple of weeks, he said.

Puustusmaa said several different variants of the question have been proposed within the EKRE Riigikogu faction, but a final one had not been decided on yet.

He said two questions may also be considered. "The important thing is that what we want to achieve is easy to understand. And another very important thing is that these issues must also be such that, formally and legally speaking, they do not cause a crisis in the operation of the state."

Coalition negotiations in March 2019 led to an agreement that a referendum would take place during this government's term, which would define marriage as between one man and one woman and the electorate would vote on whether they agreed with this definition.

The idea was put forward by the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE", who want to amend the constitution to include such a definition. That a definition of marriage already exists in the Family Law Act has not put EKRE off the idea of holding a referendum, which is planned to run concurrently with next autumn's local elections.

Opposition parties Reform and the Social Democrats are against holding a referendum. It has not yet been agreed if it will be actually held at the same time as the local elections in 2021.

As well as the question of whether marriage is something which should be defined in the constitution lies questions over whether holding a referendum at the same time as local elections would confuse the electorate, divert attention from local issues and also lead to a two-tier system where all residents of Estonia could vote in the local elections, but only citizens in the referendum.

What does the coalition agreement say?

The coalition agreement agreed upon by the Center Party, Isamaa and EKRE last year states:

"Among other national issues, we will conduct a referendum on the proposal to amend the Constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The vote on this issue will be implemented in 2021, concurrently with the elections of municipal councils." (page 30).

The agreement can be read here in English.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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