Representatives of parliament parties argued over Family Act amendments to allow same-sex marriage in Estonia and tying it to the implementing provisions of the Registered Partnership Act during an "Esimene stuudio" debate.
Similarly to what happened with the tax changes bill, sides were given just a few days to get acquainted with and approve amendments to the Family Act, which aim to legalize same-sex marriage in Estonia. But Minister of Social Protection Signe Riisalo (Reform) said that the opposition now has ten days to make amendment proposals, adding that the part of the bill dealing with the implementing provisions of the Registered Partnership Act has been a part of public debate for years.
"The provisions were first completed in 2015 and again in 2021 and include nothing new. The biggest change was adding a pair of words. Three days is indeed a short time, while we received feedback from 42 agencies and organizations, there were calls to allocate time for a parliamentary debate and ten days for amendment proposals in the Riigikogu," she added.
Andrei Korobeinik (Center) said that while the rush could be understood in the case of tax changes, it is much more difficult to grasp now. He also criticized putting together Family Act amendments and the Registered Partnership Act's implementing provisions, saying that the two bills have different levels of support in society and the Center Party.
The Social Democratic Party's (SDE) Eduard Odinets said the two things were put together to avoid half-baked solutions.
"Talking about value-based action, giving everyone equal obligations and rights, the Registered Partnership Act and Family Act [amendments] constitute a full solution, so every family can feel whole." he said.
Varro Vooglaid (EKRE) said that the matter is not one of equal rights, but rather of the desire to redefine marriage as one of the bearing pillars of society.
"Everyone in Estonia can get married presently and have had the opportunity in the past. There has been no situation which would qualify as discrimination. The question is what do we mean by marriage. That is what they are trying to do now – radically change the meaning of marriage," Vooglaid said.
Eesti 200 MP Liisa Pakosta said that there is the same level of support in the Riigikogu for the implementing provisions and the Family Act amendments.
"It is sensible to get marriage equality done now. The implementing provisions could not have been approved without amending family law. It is the most sensible, most child-friendly bill," she remarked.
Korobeinik countered, saying that Pakosta's equal level of support claim is decidedly not true. "Most of society supports the Registered Partnership Act, while marriage equality is ideological and has considerably fewer backers."
Mart Maastik (Isamaa) said that what the bill aims to achieve has not been discussed with the people and that it only addresses the rights of a 1-percent minority.
"The concept of marriage is also based on values for Isamaa, and we find it should not be done in this way at this time. /.../ The implementing provisions leave children worse off, as children should be born in marriage, while the only way children can be born in marriage is if it is between a man and a woman," he said.
Riisalo said that support for same-sex marriage has grown in Estonia and reached 53 percent, including 75 percent of 20-29-year-olds. "These are people who are in the marrying age today, and they sport a positive view," the minister suggested.
Riisalo added that two-thirds of children are born out of wedlock in Estonia, which is why its role in having children should not be overemphasized.
Vooglaid then pointed to a study by NGO Institute for Societal Studies, according to which 52 percent of Estonians oppose same-sex marriage.
"Among the main things that are bothering people is that children's right to a mother and father is steamrolled. What we face is the government seeking to provide on the level of legislation that children can be raised without a mother or a father," the EKRE MP said.
Liisa Pakosta said that the rights of children are protected in many ways in the bill, and the most important change will be that a child can only have two parents, not three, for example, which is possible in current legislation.
Maastik said it is a matter of the kinds of examples same-sex marriages and families set for future generations. "We are in a demographic crisis and have the lowest birth rate to date. And we're talking about legalizing gay marriage. It is a matter of examples – for me, a family is made up of a mother and father whose marriage produces children," the Isamaa MP remarked.
Odinets said that the examples argument is aimed simply at intimidation. "People are intimidated by suggesting that when a young woman sees a gay couple, she loses the desire to have children. That is not how it works. Looking at the 34 countries that have marriage equality, they have tolerant societies, equal treatment and respect for all people," he said.
The bill to amend the Family Act to specify that marriage is between two adults, irrespective of their gender, has passed the first reading in the Riigikogu.
Editor: Marcus Turovski