Nearly two-thirds of Estonian citizens who would vote on the status of marriage are in favor of it being between one man and one woman, according to a recent poll, which also reveals a split on the issue between government and opposition party supporters.
The survey, conducted by Norstat found that 63 percent of respondents want marriage to constitute an opposite-sex pairing, with 37 percent saying they would oppose this. The results refer to those who said they would actually take part in a referendum on the issue.
A referendum is planned for late April on whether marriage should be defined as between a man and a woman, or not, and arises from a policy from the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), which it got inserted into the coalition agreement it signed with Center and Isamaa last year.
Eighteen-percent of respondents to the Norstat poll said they would not take part in a referendum on the issue – open to all Estonian citizens but not residents – and 75 percent said they would vote. Seven percent were undecided, according to the survey, which quizzed around 1,000 citizens of voting age and was conducted on behalf of conservative think-tank NGO the Institute for Social Research (MTÜ Ühiskonnauuringute Instituut).
Coalition party supporters more in favor of opposite-sex marriage definition, opposition supporters vice versa
The question posed was: "Should marriage in Estonia remain as a union between one man and one woman?", i.e. the actual wording of the planned referendum question.
The survey also asked people's preferences in terms of political parties, finding a difference of opinion there.
The majority of supporters of the three coalition parties would vote in the affirmative in answering the above question, while the majority of supporters of the two opposition parties, Reform and the Social Democratic Party (SDE), along with the non-parliamentary Estonia 200, said they would vote in the negative.
The strongest support for defining marriage as between a man and a woman came from EKRE supporters polled, with 94 percent saying they would. Eight-six percent of Center voters agreed, while the figure for Isamaa voters stood at 65 percent. The latter party has seen some difference of opinion on the issue lately, with MP Siim Kiisler opposing holding a referendum.
Conversely, the majority of supporters of Reform, SDE and Estonia 200 would vote no to the question posed, 62 percent, 66 percent and 68 percent respectively, the survey found.
Turu-uuringute poll found small majority opposed to holding referendum at all
An earlier poll presented by daily Eesti Päevaleht (EPL) and performed by Turu-uuringute resulted in different figures, though the question posed there was whether the issue was important enough in society to merit a referendum.
Here, 58 percent thought it not sufficiently important to hold a referendum, compared with 37 percent who thought it was (the rest being don't knows).
Additionally, 21 percent of respondents thought the referendum should definitely not be held at all and would not take part in it, compared with 46 percent who would vote in favor of marriage being defined as between a man and a woman and 27 percent opposed.
Marriage is already defined in the Family Law Act as between a man and a woman. EKRE's desire is to insert the definition into the Constitution, but many experts say altering that document – unchanged since the restoration of Estonian independence in 1991 – would not be a simple matter.
The Registered Partnership Act, which would grant legal recognition to both same-sex and opposite-sex partnerships, is still awaiting implementation acts before it can enter fully into force.
The British Embassy in Tallinn has on occasion carried out consular marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.
Editor: Andrew Whyte