Urmas Reinsalu: Marriage referendum campaign has started ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu on
Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu on "Otse uudistemajast". Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The referendum's result needs to follow a decent turnout that is significant not in terms of legal but democratic legitimacy. This is why we can somewhat paradoxically thank [opposition Reform Party chairman] Kaja Kallas for her recent call for people to vote in the referendum. The important thing now is for the "yes" camp to participate.

Reform Party chairwoman Kaja Kallas' recent message was clear: say "no" if the referendum is to be held.

Why this course of action? Firstly, it is because she wants to legalize same-sex marriage in the future, as she has herself said, and the referendum result coming back "yes" would block that option. However, she dares not paint that slogan on her standard and is using a different argument instead. Kallas is seeking to distort the spirit of the referendum and say that people should vote "no" if they do not like the current government which the Reform Party is not part of."

The latter logic is especially peculiar and contrary to the spirit of the law as it could be used to urge the people to vote on whichever topic under the aegis of whichever formal question.

This approach is wholly surreal and would allow one to claim that my vote cast during the European Union referendum in 2003 was really expressing how I feel about switching between summer and winter time. In truth, Kaja Kallas is looking to legitimize the "no" option for her supporters who feel they want to say "yes" to the referendum question (of whether marriage should only be between a man and a woman – ed.).

Let's summarize. We should not kid ourselves – the media will support Kallas' position and promote it. We need to be fair and say that it was Kallas who put pressure on the media to adopt this hard line. The same opinion leaders who ridiculed the coalition partners' agreement for a certain culture and behavior as concerns the referendum are the ones pouring fuel on the fire today.

Our reply should be: when they go low, we go high! Firstly, we need to keep the referendum on point and refrain from attaching any additional meaning to the "yes/no" choice. Secondly, we need to keep this matter separate from narrow party politics.

While political parties have their positions, this vote does not directly concern them. For that purpose, I propose the creation of a supraparty yes-campaign advisory chamber made up of politicians of parties that support the yes-campaign, representatives of NGOs and volunteer leaders. The yes-camp needs to work together, keep the campaign separate from other topics and party-political skirmishes and coordinate its messages and argumentation. It is important to communicate a positive as opposed to a mean-spirited message!

Thirdly, it is imperative to demand from the media everything a democratic citizen can demand: for it to be objective in its presentation of the facts and provide a platform for counterargument. It was rather amusing to listen to the "Rahva teenrid" radio show on Saturday. While the topic was at first described as inconsequential, half the show was dedicated to it and a clearly negative position expressed.

[Host] Mirko Ojakivi dared hypothesize there are people who could sport a different view based on their values that caused him to be told off. One of the hosts even exclaimed that the people are interested in prosperity and the referendum is contrary to it because prosperity has grown since Estonia joined the EU. An avalanche of such nonsense is what we are facing and all of these "arguments" need to be overturned. We will do it calmly and with a smile on our face.

And fourthly, do not doubt that massive pressure can make a lot of people rethink their stance even if public polls have shown support for the yes-camp so far. No referendum vote has been cast before it has been cast.

Fifthly, we need to honestly admit and keep in mind that should the "no" answer prevail, it will be a political if not legal mandate for the legalization of same-sex marriage.

And sixthly, we must also understand that the referendum's result needs to follow a decent turnout that is significant not in terms of legal but democratic legitimacy. This is why we can somewhat paradoxically thank Kaja Kallas for her recent call for people to vote in the referendum. The important thing now is for the "yes" camp to participate.

Seventhly, everyone, no matter how different can vote "yes" because saying "yes" is not intolerance, saying is "yes" simply means supporting marriage as it is today.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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