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Estonia to pay damages for failing to adopt implementing legislation for civil partnership law

Wedding band. Photo is illustrative.
Wedding band. Photo is illustrative. Source: (AP/Scanpix)

By not adopting the implementing provisions of the gender-neutral Registered Partnership Act that went into effect more than one year ago, the Estonian state has caused damage to interested parties and must pay damages, Tallinn Administrative Court ruled on Tuesday regarding the complaint of lawyer Reimo Mets, who did not rule out further actions against the state.

Mets, a lawyer known for protecting sexual minorities, said that he did not rule out that if Tuesday's court decision should take effect, other couples who have entered into a civil partnership in Estonia would also go to court against the state.

"Couples who hve entered into a civil partnership theoretically have the right to turn to court," Mets said, adding that there was no difference whether the couple was same-sex or not, as the only thing that mattered was that they had entered into a registered partnership.

At the same time, Tuesday's court ruling has not yet taken effect and the state will definitely be appealing it, noted the lawyer, adding that Minister of Justice Urmas Reinsalu had previously said that "he will use the best officials of the ministry to deal with the case."

According to Mets, in its decision, the court pointed a finger at the Riigikogu which has failed to do its job in not adopting the implementing provisions of the Registered Partnership Act.

Mets submitted his complaint to the court to determine whether not adopting the implementing provisions of the civil partnership law was a violation of the complainant's subjective rights and whether any damages would be required to be compensated to him due to the lack of regulation. Mets found that the state's failure to act had caused damage to him and he sought €10,000 in compensation for damage from the Ministry of Justice.

Tallinn Administrative Court partially satisfied Mets' complaint on Tuesday, ordering the ministry to pay Mets €1,500 for non-patrimonial damage. The court found that the complainant had indeed suffered non-patrimonial damage due to the legislators' failure to act; he had suffered damage to his dignity and inviolability of private life, and there was causation between the legislators' failure to act and the damage suffered by the complainant.

The court found that a prolongued vagueness in legislative drafting which results in a group of people in society not having security with regards to how a life situation will work out and which interpretation of the law an official would cite when resolving a situation regarding them infringes upon the inviolability of the private life of an individual and may result in damage to a person's dignity. The group of people in society to which the court referred were those people who had entered into a registered partnership, including same-sex civil partnerships.

"The infringement constantly influenced the complainant, causing him to constantly feel fear, stress and uncertainty rather than degrading through concrete incidents," the court added.

Delay measurable in months, years

The Registered Partnership Act was passed on Oct. 9, 2014 — approximately 17 months ago — and entered into force on Jan. 1, 2016 — over six months ago — but its implementing acts have yet to be adopted by the Riigikogu.

The first reading of the implementing provisions took place on Nov. 25, 2015, after which it was decided that discussion of the provisions would continue in the Legal Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu, where the most recent discussion on the matter took place on Jan. 21, 2016.

Jaanus Karilaid (Center), chairman of the committee, found that the current Riigikogu would not be adopting the implementing provisions of the act, noting that taking up the issue now would only result in new confrontations and that there were many more pressing matters in society.

Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla

Source: BNS

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