Deputy chairman of Center Party's Riigikogu political group and member of the constitutional committee Andrei Korobeinik told ERR that he does not see controversial questions posed as public opinion as a bad thing, but he hopes that society will not support defining marriage in the constitution, if the coalition's initative to do so were to reach the public via a planned referendum.
The MP gave an interview to ERR's head of radio news Indrek Kiisler, which follows.
If a question about organizing a marriage referendum were to reach the Riigikogu, would the Center political group choose to vote uniformly, or would the group leave the voting process open for members?
I think that if it comes in the current format, then Center will support it because we are dealing with the coalition agreement. If a question of constitutionalizing the definition of marriage were to reach the hall, I fear Center would not have their votes together, not to mention that you need the support of two consecutive Riigikogu compositions to make constitutional amendments.
I do not think putting the question out as a referendum is a bad thing in itself. If we accept the possibility of referendums being triggered after a certain amount of signatures, then many questions would actually reach public surveys. Society should be more mature and ready for certain issues to be uncomfortable for certain groups. But certainly, a marriage-themed public survey - especially in today's situation - is a problematic and polarizing action.
I personally hope that society says no to this proposal (constitutionalizing the definition of marriage - ed.)
But we plan on dealing with the topic of referendums beforehand, and that is a separate question. Referendums could be a part of our everyday democracy.
How does Center see the marriage-themed public petition (issued by the Green Party - ed.) reaching the Riigikogu and how should the question be worded?
We have not gotten that far yet. According to our current estimations, it is not a real referendum and that the results should be put into force. But the exact wording and format, we will get to it later.
The next sitting is this week. But I cannot say, we have not gotten much closer over the last few meetings. But it is possible that it will happen sooner or later.
Is the process impeded by differences in world views for the three parties?
We have not even gotten there yet. We are currently discussing the technical side. All that regards referendums in general.
Is there a possibility that the public survey will not come altogether? What is Center's position on it?
It was written in the coalition agreement. Our current application is that it would not be held on the day of local municipality elections (in November 2021 - ed.). It was a result of compromise in coalition discussions. Certain parties wanted a stricter solution, that the coalition would agree to constitutional changes right away. I think that if the coalition still stands in that time, the referendum will come.
It was Center's wish and an EKRE compromise that the marriage referendum was moved from the day of local elections. But what was Center's concession to EKRE?
The public survey in question was the compromise in the process of creating the coalition agreement. There has not been any haggling right now. I think it is a logical solution for EKRE and they do not see it as a loss. And with it coming earlier especially. Coalitions fall apart from time to time, and just theoretically - the earlier [the referendum] happens, the larger the probability it actually happens.
If there is a public survey, would Center stand at a certain position and state publicly how people should vote?
It is a very reasonable question and we are actually discussing it. It is no secret that Center voters are also quite conservative in the question but if the party comes out with a common position or recommends voting based on world view, I do not know yet. But we will discuss it and there will likely be a stance in the coming month.
I know there are differences in opinions on this question in the political group and I do not believe there will be a common opinion in the [Center Party] Riigikogu political group. But the party as a whole - perhaps. But it will certainly not be a clear-cut stance of "yes" or "no". However, it is possible that there will be a recommendation for voters.
At the end of the day, people must make that decision for themselves. In the Center Party, with over 10,000 members, there are different opinions on the issue.
We can probably assume that EKRE will start a rather powerful campaign when it comes to the referendum?
Yes. I think it is a peculiar advertising format for EKRE and they will use all options available. In addition to EKRE, there are conservative connections that will likely try to affect voters.
I personally hope that liberal powers can also be powerful and bring voters out.
The public survey could also be boycotted, just not voted on and then later say participations was so low that the whole thing is marginal, but I do not think that is a good idea. It is a matter of principle, where everyone should get their word in.
What do you think about the petition started by the non-parliamentary Estonian Greens party calling for the Family Act to be amended to allow for same-sex marriages regardless of gender?
Center will discuss this specific petition in the near future. But I am glad for the Greens that they finally found a topic that speaks to society and I can not rule out that it will take them to the Riigikogu in the next elections. Good for them.
How does Center plan to react to the petition reaching Riigikogu?
The format is one where the petition will likely reach the legal affairs committee and members will make a decision there. They could also just express their opinion but can also prepare a draft law that goes to the hall. How it will end, I do not know. I have spoken to representatives of other parties and I am not sure at all that opposition parties (Reform, Social Democrats) will support the petition in corpore.
Others see this as a matter of scoring political points. But I think the content should be delved into deeper into. It is an important question and if it mobilizes the more liberal part of society and takes them to the referendum, one of the goals is filled at the least.
What is your personal opinion on the legal regulation of same-sex couples?
I believe Estonia should utilize the Registered Partnership Act (the act passed some years ago but requirest implementing legislation to bring it into full force - ed.). It does not only defend the rights of same-sex couples, but also the weaker side of traditional couples, usually the woman in Estonia's context. And in the case of the partnership being unregulated, they do not have much protection.
My personal view is that people should live with whomsoever they think is right for them. I am certainly not someone who lectures people on who people should live with and how. A normal person is wise enough to make the right choices in their life.
But should same-sex couples be allowed to marry?
It is the next question in that sense. Cohabitation should be the starting point. I think that would be the first step - that people would have equal rights even if they are minorities.
I would not be sorry if [same-sex] people were allowed to marry. But we should also base it on adequacy; if we are unable to formalize cohabitation, maybe we could start with that.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste