PM on marriage referendum: I don't support a vote that is unconstitutional
When asked by opposition MPs to comment on a plan of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) to stage a referendum on the definition of marriage, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) said he will not support the conduct of a referendum that is unconstitutional.
"I will not support the conduct of any referendum that is unconstitutional," Ratas said, adding that many institutions are in a serious debate on the subject. Ratas said the topic has been explored by the chancellor of justice and the head of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, among others.
He said an appropriate way to resolve the matter has to be found which is consistent with the Constitution. "I will not ask the government or the parliamentary party group to support a question which is unconstitutional," Ratas said.
The prime minister added that he is in favor of what is already written in the Family Act, which states marriage is a union between a man and a woman.
The Center Party, Isamaa and EKRE agreed in their coalition agreement that a referendum will be held over a proposal to amend the Constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. EKRE has now created a draft bill.
Chairman of the Riigikogu's EKRE group Siim Pohlak said: "For us, this is a very important issue, and foot-dragging by partners would be clearly unwise, as the coalition agreement would be jeopardized, as well as the conduct of the referendum on a good level."
Chairman of Isamaa Helir-Valdor Seeder said nobody was intentionally delaying things.
"But we don't want to rush things in haste either as long as things aren't clear," Seeder told newspaper Postimees, expressing hope that the picture will become clearer in the next few weeks.
The chair of the Center Party group, Kersti Sarapuu, said the Center Party will decide about its stance next week.
Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise has said the current wording of the question concerning a constitutional amendment cannot be accepted.
Madise explained on Vikerraadio that if the wish is to amend the Constitution, a bill to amend the Constitution has to be prepared. That requires 61 votes in the parliament to pass, which the coalition does not have.
Nor can an obligation be placed on a member of the parliament by means of a referendum to vote in a specific way, she said.
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Editor: Helen Wright