LSM: Same-sex relationship legally recognized for first time in Latvia

Latvian and Pride flags at Baltic Pride in Tallinn, June 2017.
Latvian and Pride flags at Baltic Pride in Tallinn, June 2017. Source: Baltic Pride/Facebook

A court in Latvia has issued an initial ruling finding "the existence of a public legal relationship" in a same-sex couple, i.e. a family relationship within the meaning of Article 100 of the Constitution of Latvia, the English-language portal of Latvian public broadcaster LSM reported on Tuesday.

According to Section 110, "the State shall protect and support marriage — a union between a man and a woman — the family, the rights of parents and rights of the child."

In its landmark judgment, the Latvian court referred to the Constitutional Court and Senate in interpreting the meaning of that provision, specifically noting that the concept of family also includes same-sex couples with "close personal links between couples, based on understanding and respect," LSM writes.

As previously explained by the Supreme Court, the Latvian state is obliged to provide a family of same-sex couples with the opportunity to legally strengthen their family relationships and to be recognized as a family by the state, however in a situation where regulations allowing for such recognition don't exist, it is left up to the courts to determine whether a same-sex couple should be legally recognized as a family.

The court noted that in the absence of relevant legislation or regulations, the Latvian state has failed to fulfill its duty in protecting the applicants' constitutional and human rights; the bill for the Civil Union Law has only reached its second reading in the Saeima.

Speaking to Latvian Radio, Sanita Osipova, former president of the Constitutional Court, noted that it unfortunately appears as though the matter of recognizing same-sex couples as families will be handled more quickly via the judicial sysem than changes to regulations, but also added that this was not the only case of a same-sex couple in administrative courts, which means that an extra load will remain on Latvia's judicial system until the legislature sorts the matter out.

Legislative delays in Estonia measurable in years

While marriages are not defined in the Constitution of Estonia, the Family Law Act explicitly states that "A marriage is contracted between a man and a woman."

In January 2021, the Riigikogu voted down a controversial marriage referendum bill initiated under the Center-EKRE-Isamaa coalition that wanted to organize a public referendum on April 18, 2021 with the question, "Should marriage in Estonia remain a union between a man and woman?"

The gender-neutral Registered Partnership Act, meanwhile, was passed on October 9, 2014 and entered into force on January 1, 2016. To date, however, its implementing acts have yet to be adopted by the Riigikogu.

In October 2017, the Riigikogu voted down a bill aimed at repealing the Registered Partnership Act initiated by the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) 47-19 with 20 abstentions.

The first reading of the implementing provisions took place on November 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 January 21, 2016.

Current Center whip Jaanus Karilaid, who was chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee at the time, said that that the XIII Riigikogu would not be adopting the implementing provisions of the act, noting that taking up the issue would only result in new confrontations and that there were many more pressing matters in Estonian society.

The XIV Riigikogu, which was sworn in in April 2019 following the general election that March, also has yet to adopt the implementing provisions of the Registered Partnership Act.

The next general election in Estonia is in March 2023.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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