Reform leader Kaja Kallas says that a petition launched by the Green Party to enshrine same-sex marriage within existing legislation takes the battle on to the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) territory, adding that she will not sign it for that reason.
In an interview with daily Eesti Päevaleht (link in Estonian) Kallas said that her reasons were: "Due to the fact that this entire referendum could have been handled entirely differently."
"EKRE's desire is to move things to their own battle ground. That such a thing as this petition even came about is definitely in their interest. With it, they can then say that the institution of marriage is under attack," Kallas went on.
Kallas also said that she personally would be in favor of full same-sex marriage, though noted this was not the official Reform Party line.
The non-parliamentary Green Party issued the petition via the citizens initiative website late last week. As of Monday morning it had attracted over 24,000 signatures, far in excess of the 1,000 required to pass it to the Riigikogu for consideration.
The petition demands existing legislation, namely the Family Law Act, which does define marriage as between one man and one woman, to permit same-sex marriages.
The planned EKRE referendum would instead enshrine the same definition within the constitution, which supporters say would safeguard domestic legislation being trumped by EU law on the matter.
While EKRE originally wanted the referendum to run concurrently with next fall's local elections, following a cabinet deal last week, it has been moved forward to spring.
"Even for those who support the [same-sex partnership-affirming] Registered Partnership Act, marriage is a different matter. [Lutheran Archbishop] Urmas Viilma also said that since marriage is between a man and a women, the implementing measures of the cohabitation act should be carried out," Kallas went on, referring to legislation needed to bring the act, which passed in 2014, into full effect.
"For christians, the institution of marriage is important, but so far as love between people goes, a solution could be the cohabitation act," Kallas went on, adding that further consultation was needed to formulate Reform's position on the issue as a whole.
"The feeling is such that if we have up until now failed to pass the cohabitation act implementing legislation in the current political reality, then we can't automatically punt things up to a higher level (i.e. legalizing same-sex marriage – ed.) before we have taken that step from the lower level."
At the same time Kallas noted that same-sex pairs could no doubt enjoy the same rights within the framework of the Registered Partnership Act that heterosexual partners do within marriage.
Indrek Saar, leader of the other opposition party, the Social Democrats, said that he too would not be signing the Greens' petition, adding that more pertinent would be to cancel the referendum, currently scheduled for spring, altogether.
"I think the most important thing at present is that this referendum does not take place," Saar told ERR Monday.
"Everything needs to be done today to ensure that this referendum does not transform into law. And our energy must be concentrated there from now," he went on, adding that he would also support initiating the cohabitation act's implementing provisions.
Editor: Andrew Whyte