Coalition withdraws marriage referendum bill from Riigikogu vote

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

A controversial bill on holding a referendum on the definition of marriage has been removed from Wednesday's Riigikogu agenda.

The bill had been due to be put before the chamber for its second reading. However, the resignation of Jüri Ratas (Center) as prime minister early on Wednesday means that the bill, presented jointly by the coalition of Center, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) and Isamaa, has become a moot point.

Coalition sources told ERR Wednesday morning that the bill had been removed from the Riigikogu timetable for Wednesday, something which finance minister Martin Helme (EKRE) confirmed was the case.

Opposition Social Democratic Party (SDE) leader says that Wednesday's developments with Jüri Ratas also mean that the coalition, with 56 seats, would be unlikely to get a majority at the 101-seat Riigikogu, since those coalition MPs opposed to holding the referendum will be freed up more to vote against the bill.

The bill passed its first reading on December 14, but met with delays and controversy over both the over 9,000 amendment proposals presented by opposition MPs, and the Riigikogu Constitutional Affairs Committee's dealing with those proposals.

Riigikogu speaker Henn Põlluaas (EKRE) had said earlier Wednesday morning that the bill was the only item on Wednesday's agenda, adding that it would have been difficult to strike off.

The proposed referendum, originally an EKRE policy, would have been held in April and would have posed as a yes/no question whether marriage should be defined in Estonian legislation as a union between one man and one woman.

Critics said that the referendum would be costly, estimated to be €2 million, and coming at a time when the country was facing bigger challenges. Additionally, the Family Law Act already defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

President Kersti Kaljulaid had been due to meet Jüri Ratas at Kadriorg Wednesday to discuss the impasse on the referendum bill. The president did in the event meet with Ratas Wednesday morning, but to accept his resignation as prime minister.

Ratas, who resigned in the wake of an Internal Security Service investigation into a €39-million state loan to the Porto Franco real estate development, said early on Wednesday that the bill should not be put before parliament.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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