Riigikogu committee has over 9,000 marriage bill amendments to sift through

The riigikogu sitting on Monday, December 14, where the marriage referendum bill passed its first reading.
The riigikogu sitting on Monday, December 14, where the marriage referendum bill passed its first reading. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Over 9,000 amendments to the marriage referendum bill are now with the Riigikogu's Constitutional Affairs Committee, and will all need to be examined this week before the committee decides on how to move forward with the draft law.

Chair of the Riigikogu constitutional affairs committee Anti Poolamets (EKRE) says a total of 9,370 amendments to the marriage referendum bill have been submitted, with these now being read and categorized.

3,337 amendments came from opposition Reform Party MPs, Poolamets said. Poolamets also told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) Monday evening that the committee will decide when the bill's second reading, originally scheduled for January 11, can take place. The bill passed its first reading on December 14 2020.

Poolamets had told ERR earlier on Monday that the majority of the over 9,000 amendments to the bill took the form of alternate questions to the one proposed and were often of a humorous nature, such as: "Should the concept of marriage in Estonia coincide with the concept and content of marriage in Namibia?", "Should men be banned from having hair transplants in the Republic of Estonia?", and "Should friendship be banned in Estonia?".

Riigikogu committee chair: Minority of amendment proposals were serious

The question on the bill, which if it passes to schedule would see a national referendum held on April 18, asks respondents whether marriage in Estonia should be legally defined as an institution between one man and one woman.

Some of the amendment proposals contained obscenities, Poolamets added on Monday, and have been placed in a separate category, while others, he said, were serious questions on serious, but completely unrelated, topics.

There were a few amendments which were pertinent, he said. "Among the stupid questions and trolling, some individuals have chosen substantive ones. For example: 'Is it necessary to supplement the family law with the right of same-sex couples to enter into cohabitation?'."

The Registered Partnership Act, often referred to as the Cohabitation Act, passed several years ago but has so far lacked the necessary legal amendments to bring it fully into force. The act would grant legal recognition to couples, both same-sex and opposite-sex, who were cohabiting but not married.

Committee to meet Wednesday to go through proposals

Poolamets also said there was a slight discrepancy between the number of amendments Reform said they had tabled (3,500) and the final tally (3,337).

The constitutional committee is to have an off-schedule meeting Wednesday, continuing into Thursday if required, to discuss the amendments further; Anti Poolamets told AK Monday evening that this was: "A new situation for me, as well as for officials, who have not seen such obstruction before. In this case, of course, we have to take a stand. But my view is that there is no need to discuss nonsense on this committee."

Reform Party MP and member of the constitutional affairs committee told AK that there were hundreds of very serious proposals.

Pevkur said: "If the coalition thinks that only amendments which have come from coalition parties are serious, and those from the opposition parties are not serious, then somehow this is not democratic."

Reform MP: Most sensible option would be to withdraw bill

Ultimately, Pevkur said, the most sensible course of action would be for the coalition to withdraw the bill.

"Our goal has not been to obstruct the work of the parliament in any way, but itl has been to signal to the coalition, and especially to EKRE, that this referendum is not necessary at all," he said.

The marriage referendum bill was presented by all three coalition parties, Center, Isamaa and the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), but it had been a central policy for the third of these parties, one which they had been able to get inserted into the coalition agreement signed in April 2019.

Anti Poolamets said what happened next depended on the committee, but that if a hundred suitable proposals which could be put before the chamber were found, they would do so. If necessary, the Riigikogu's rules of procedure could also be amended, he added.

The Social Democratic Party (SDE) tabled its amendments, reportedly numbering around 5,800, digitally.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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