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600 activists sign a letter in support of Family Law Act amendment

Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Kersti Kaljulaid.
Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Kersti Kaljulaid. Source: Rene Suurkaev / ERR

On Monday, the Riigikogu convened for the first time to discuss the proposed amendment to the Family Law Act. 600 prominent members of Estonian society, including presidents Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Kersti Kaljulaid, as well as dozens of writers, actors, musicians and business people, sent a letter of support to the Riigikogu.

The petition highlights the fact that the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia states that all individuals are equal before the law. "According to the same principle, everyone should have equal rights, including the right to marry if they wish to, regardless of whether they wish to have children and are able to do so, or of their sexual orientation," the appeal states in support of same-sex marriage.

"Every good, honest and law-abiding person deserves the best treatment and support from their country," former president Kersti Kaljulaid, who signed the appeal, said.

"In Estonia, all forms of discrimination are prohibited under Article 12 of the Constitution. It is more perplexing and heartbreaking when prejudice is based on features we can not change, like sexual orientation, skin color, gender or special needs. The treatment of sexual minorities is a litmus test for any community and I am delighted to see Estonia moving forward in this area. Free love!"

Former president Toomas Hendrik Ilves added that the restriction of human freedom belonged to an era from which Estonia escaped 32 years ago, or a century and a half ago. However, not everyone could see what the transition from a soviet society to a free society entails.

"Let us not be trapped by the Soviet mentality. We've been free for a third of a century, which means the state doesn't discriminate against its residents based on gender, race, sexual orientation, or unique needs, which no one can change."

Hundreds of other notable figures from a variety of disciplines, including athletes, clergymen and theologians, artists and cultural figures, businesspeople and intellectuals, have also signed the letter.

Other signatories include Aino Pervik, Mart Kivastik, Mait Malmsten, Lauri Saatpalu, Karin Rask, Vahur Kersna, Märt Koik, Krista Fischer, Marta Vaarik, Sveta Grigorjeva, Triin Käpp, Maik-Kalev Kotsar and Kaidi Ruusalepp.

The government approved a draft law amending the Family Law Code and other acts during an extraordinary session on Monday and the draft law is referred to the Riigikogu for debate.

Under the proposal, persons of legal age may marry regardless of their gender and cohabitation agreements will remain an option alongside marriage. In addition, it simplifies the process of transitioning from cohabitation to marriage.

The law is scheduled to enter into force on January 1, 2024.

In response, PESA, a recently founded think tank for conservative values, sent the Riigikogu an open letter signed by 59 public figures requesting that the definition of marriage not be altered.

Martin Ehala, a member of the think tank PESA and the editor-in-chief of Postimees' opinion section, is one of the initiators of the public letter. He said that the letter argues that hasty and uninformed decisions on the issue of marriage increase hostility and division in society.

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Editor: Mirjam Mäekivi, Kristina Kersa

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