Constitutional committee groups 9,400 marriage bill amendments into five

Anti Poolamets (EKRE), chairman of the Riigikogu's constitutional committee.
Anti Poolamets (EKRE), chairman of the Riigikogu's constitutional committee. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

At an extraordinary sitting on Sunday, the Riigikogu's constitutional committee discussed the opposition's proposed amendements to the marriage referendum bill and decided on sending five amendments to the Riigikogu's session hall. In addition, the committee decided to end the bill's second reading and will present it to a Riigikogu vote.

Constitutional committee chairman Anti Poolamets (EKRE) justified adding up the 9,400 amendments made to the marriage referendum bill into five by saying that most of the opposition's presented proposals are not at all connected to the bill nor marriage in general.

"Treating them separately is not appropriate and reasonable. It is clear that it is an attempt to obstruct the parliament's work. This is why the obstruction must be cleared and based on that, the committee decided to bring out amendments based on the gender of those getting married as one and grouped the rest as one amendment," Poolamets said.

"At the sitting, the opposition did not use the opportunity to stop this adventure by not voting for the amendment that gathered thousands of the obstructory proposals. Had that amendment not garnered their votes, we would not be able to put it to a vote in the Riigikogu," Poolamets explained.

Commitee member and Reform Party leader Kaja Kallas said that the committee is violating all legislation and ignoring the principles of rule of law. "Today, we saw a major violation of the Constitution and the Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act in the constitutional committee," Kallas said.

"The commitee's chairman did not refer to one section of the Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act that would support grouping the amendment proposals, he also did not reject that these actions would be illegal," the Reform leader added.

None of the five amendments found support in the committee, including one proposed by the Social Democratic Party that would have seen three questions presented to a public vote on April 18: "Should a marriage be between a man and woman?", "Should marriage be able to be entered into by two people, regardless of their gender?" and "Should marriage remain an union between a man and woman in Estonia?"

Jürgen Ligi's (Reform) and Heidy Purga's (Reform) proposal of adding the question "Should marriage no longer be a union between a man and woman?" also did not gain any traction in the committee.

The fourth grouped amendment saw 5,797 proposals made by Social Democratic politicians along with a few Center Party members and 3,405 proposals from Reform grouped together as one.

The second reading of the referendum to change the definition of marriage is planned for Wednesday, January 13.

Poolamets agrees that grouping proposals together is not in accordance with legislation

The constitutional committee gathered for a hybrid sitting on Sunday with committee chairman Anti Poolamets predicting that major commotion would take place. "I do not know if we will hear this noise for two or three hours, that I do not know," he said pre-sitting.

The opposition criticized the committee on Saturday as they felt like some members were not allowed to speak.

"Firstly, the protests the committee has received from many MPs who have not been able to present their proposals should be looked at, but we will see what the coalition's plan is," said Kaja Kallas before Sunday's sitting.

A calm peace took over the entire Riigikogu complex on Toompea on Sunday with the halls mostly populated by people preparing for a new week. Exceptionally however, the IT workers were called to work to help manage the gigantic file containing thousands of amendment proposals.

"Our plan is to group them (the proposals - ed.) into five groups in a way that there would be four serious proposals that are connected to the definition of marriage. Of the giant mass, more than 9,000, there were were four things connected to the definition of marriage that were not odd, not unconstitutional or not entirely inadequate," Poolamets said.

He noted that this action was not in accordance with the Riigikogu's Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act. "Section 102 says that voting can only be conducted on identical proposals, proposals from the same presenter, those can be grouped but proposals with different content cannot be grouped," he said.

A fiery discussion also took place on social media where a proposal made by Reform MPs Urmas Kruuse, Ants Laaneots and Jüri Jaanson posed the question: "Would it be better to live in the Republic of Estonia, if the Republic of Estonia were a part of Russia?"

Poolamets said the proposal in question is a joke that failed. "The problem is that it was international. Foreigners might not understand that it was a dumb joke or something. But a proposal of only men being allowed to be Riigikogu MPs is also unconstitutional. It is a violation of equal rights," he said of the proposals.

Kaja Kallas noted that the Russia proposal was retracted. "I understand why the coalition is trying to stir that up - to take attention away from what is actually happening in the committee, actual vile violation of the law," she said.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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