Coalition already in disagreement over Cohabitation Act

Tallinn Gay Pride, an annual event promoting diversity and equality Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

Although the previous Parliament passed a law allowing cohabiting couples, irrespective of the gender of either partner, the right to register their relationship at a notary and qualify for other benefits similar to marriage, some implementing acts still have to be passed, in order the law to enter into force in 2016. But the Social Democrats and IRL already differ in opinion whether the implementing acts should be worked out by the government or in the Parliament.

Justice Minister Urmas Reinsalu (IRL) favors drafting the implementing acts in the Parliament, whereas Defence Minister Sven Mikser (the Social Democrats) and Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas (the Reform Party) would prefer the government to take care of it.

Reinsalu admitted in an interview given to ERR that it was impossible to include any reference to Cohabitation Act in the coalition agreement – simply because there was no consensus in this matter.

Reinsalu, who as the leader of IRL was one of the opponents of the bill that gives homosexual couples the same rights as heterosexual ones, said that the initiative to pass the implementing acts needs to come from the Parliament, an indication of long disputes ahead, especially considering the fact that IRL's faction in the Parliament is headed by Priit Sibul - a conservative Christian, publicly against any form of nontraditional marriage or civil partnership, and with a history of expressing homophobic insults.

But Mikser, one of the high-ranking political proponents of equal civil partnership rights, disagreed with Reinsalu, explaining that it's a normal procedure for the government to draft implementing acts, once the Parliament have voted in favor of the law. “It is not a common practice for the Parliament to write implementing acts. Cohabitation Act was passed into law and it is now reasonable and wise for the government to work out the rest,” he said.

Rõivas said that within the political history of Estonia, he cannot recall a precedent where drafting implementation acts would have caused a remarkable political disruption. “I believe that we should now put the debate about Cohabitation Act behind us. Let's accept that different people have different opinions, but I cannot see for how could we start this debate all over again during the implementation process. In a democratic society, if a law has been passed, it will have to be implemented,” the prime minister said.

Arguments about Cohabitation Act fueled debate and dominated domestic political news for much of the late summer and early autumn last year, but the bill was eventually, albeit narrowly, approved by the Parliament, with 40 MPs voting in favor, and 38 against. But to enter into force in 2016, some implementing acts will have to be passed first and these require 51 of 101 MPs to be in favor. If IRL decided to vote against these, the coalition would have to rely on opposition votes.

Editor: S. Tambur

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