"Esimene stuudio": Parliamentary parties debate marriage referendum

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Wednesday's "Esimene stuudio" Source: ERR

Wednesday's ETV interview show "Esimene stuudio" saw parliamentary party representatives debate the legal aspects of the upcoming marriage referendum.

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.

The marriage referendum was a topic of fiery debate on Wednesday evening's "Esimene stuudio". After Isamaa's member Siim Kiisler voted the marriage referendum off the Riigikogu's agenda in the constitutional committee on Monday, the party quickly replaced Kiisler in the committee with another representative.

Isamaa's Priit Sibul said that if a party has a certain position on a topic, but a specific member does not approve of the position, each party has a political group that is represented in the committee and someone has to take the party's actual position to the committee. "A Riigikogu ambassador is free in their mandate," Sibul said.

Tõnis Mölder (Center) said the public opinion must be heard first. "If the public says no, then I believe the debate will be greater as the definition of marriage should be defined. And implementation acts in the cohabitation act (the Registered Partnership Act - ed.) as well if the public wants it," Mölder said.

This (the referendum - ed.) would open up the possibility of changing the Family Law Act," said EKRE's Anti Poolamets, adding that the referendum's "no" response allows for future politicians to continue on the subject, an option he does not envision in the current coalition.

Social Democratic Party member Lauri Läänemets said 58 percent of people are not in favor of holding the referendum and the concept of marriage is not the danger for Estonians but rather the well-being of families.

Hanno Pevkur (Reform) noted that there have been just three referendums in Estonia's 30 years of history, but the currently planned vote on marriage definition is aimed at dividing the Estonian people. "We will first hold a 'no' campaign and there is a very specific reason for this: The rights of a minority are not put to a vote in a democratic society. It is blatant populism," Pevkur said.

Sibul added that the Family Law Act is currently in place and it is important for Isamaa that marriage remains how it is stated in legislation.

Mölder said the public's opinion must be heard. "If they say 'no', then certainly the Family Law Act must be put on the agenda, it has to be considered," the Center politician said.

He noted that the opposition's planned obstruction is not pleasant in a crisis situation, Läänemets however noted that the coalition has to make the of putting the referendum on the agenda again or not doing so.

Pevkur noted that the referendum, as it is currently worded, is legally binding and if the public were to vote "yes", then further amendments to the Family Law Act cannot be made without a public vote. There are no consequences if the public's response is "no" however.

Wording has caused issues both on the questions posed, and even what term to use for the vote to be put to the public in spring, with the term "Rahvaküsitlus", which translates into English as plebiscite, superseding "Rahvahääletus", i.e. referendum, in political discussions on the issue.

Two variants of possible questions have already been proposed, but these too have met problems since they seemed to ask what the status of marriage and whether it was defined as between one man and one woman was in Estonia right now, rather than what it should be.

The vote is currently planned for April 18 2021.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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