New justice minister sidesteps marriage equality legislation responsibility

Kalle Laanet (background) with the prime minister.
Kalle Laanet (background) with the prime minister. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Processing a legislative amendment which would incorporate marriage equality in Estonia will be passed to Minister of Social Protection Signe Riisalo (Reform), after Minister of Justice Kalle Laanet (Reform) stated that his worldview would make this complicated, daily Eesti Päevaleht (EPL) reports.

Laanet told EPL (link in Estonian) that back in 2015 when the Registered Partnerships Act, colloquially known as the cohabitation act, passed at the Rigiikogu, he "didn't applaud it, and didn't think it was wholly necessary."

While the act passed in 2015 when Reform were still in office, progress became mired after the necessary implementing acts, which would have meant the cohabitation act entered into force, were not passed.

Laanet was an MP at the time.

Reform was out-of-office from November 2016 until January 2021.

Laanet, who was defense minister January 2021-June 2022, stopped short of saying he was opposed to the law as such.

"As of today, I have reached a point within my own views that, if necessary, we can carry this out. I was, figuratively speaking, ready to defend the bill or bills. However, in the course of our [coalition] discussions, we reached the point where it seemed far more reasonable than a politician who supports and applauds this bill fully would do this themselves, before the Riigikogu," Laanet continued.

"Life has moved on so much and societies have developed, to the extent that we have reached a completely different stage of development. I will state once again that when I was asked this question prior to the elections, I had said that I would prefer not to support marriage equality, but neither would I oppose it," he went on.

Ministers do not sit at the Riigikogu, but regularly appear there, including to present bills which are then discussed at committee level, and voted on. Bills need to pass three votes with an absolute majority, before they can be sent to the president for promulgation.

Signe Riisalo, who has returned as social protection minister after holding the post in the previous two administrations, is ideal for presenting the bill, Laanet added, noting that this is why an agreement for her to do so emerged.

The government made the announcement Tuesday that the Minsiter of Justice will head the same ministry's dealings, save for in the case of the implementing acts to the cohabitation act, and also amendments on the same topic needed to be made to the family law act.

Both ministers workplaces are in the "superministry" building in central Tallinn.

The Reform-Eesti 200-SDE coalition agreement itself references the cohabitation act and marriage equality in its secion on justice matters, ERR reports.

"We will amend the family law in such a way that marriage is regarded as an agreement between two adults. We will adopt implementing acts of the law on cohabitation," the agreement states.

The Registered Partnership Act would grant the same legal status to cohabiting couples, regardless of their gender, that are granted to those legally married.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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