Opposition accuses coalition of not holding same-sex marriage debate

Extraordinary plenary session of the Riigikogu.
Extraordinary plenary session of the Riigikogu. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Opposition politicians complained on Tuesday that the coalition did not hold a debate on the issue of legalizing same-sex marriage, which was passed today, and linking it to a confidence vote.

Today, Estonia became the 35th country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage, joining the U.S.A, UK, and Scandinavia. Fifty-five MPs voted in favor and 34 against.

"I'm very happy, I think it's a very happy moment for a lot of people in Estonia, and that's what we're here in the Riigikogu for, to make the people of Estonia happier," Eduard Odinets (SDE), chairman of the Riigikogu's Legal Committee, told evening news show "Aktuaalne kaamera".

"Perhaps, yes, it can be agreed that [the law has been passed] in a bit of a hurry, but I didn't want to prolong this very painful discussion in any way."

Members of the coalition Eesti 200, SDE, and Reform voted in favor of amendments to the Family Act which legalized same-sex marriage, while opposition parties EKRE, Isamaa, and Center were against.

Eduard Odinets. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The legislation was also tied to a confidence vote in the government after the opposition tried to block the passing of the draft bills.

EKRE Vice-Chairman Mart Helme said marriage now does not fit its historical definition. He said the adoption of the law will lead to a loss of democracy and the coalition will continue with its tactics.

"What was the debate about? We were sitting here [in the Riigikogu] alone with the opposition, the coalition was not in the room. Except on the occasions when we had to vote. This is not a political debate, it is not an intellectual debate, it is not a legal debate, it is nothing," said Helme. "It's a long way from democracy."

Tanel Kiik, leader of the Riigikogu's Center Party faction, said that members of his party were forced to vote against the bill due to its connection with the confidence vote. He said some people wanted to support it.

"The majority of the Centre Party group in the Riigikogu clearly does not support the introduction of marriage equality, but my personal view is that marriage equality is a step in the right direction. At the same time, this particular bill was linked to a vote of confidence in the government, which means that no opposition party can support the government given the current situation," said Kiik.

Tanel Kiik. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Aivar Sõerd was the only Reform MP to vote against the adoption of the amendments. He also voted against the Registered Partnership Act, which introduced civil partnerships for all couples almost a decade ago. The MP said same-sex marriage creates division in society.

"There were no other options. I was guided by my own values and beliefs. There is no clarity on what problem will be solved by this anyway, and I don't think that is the most important thing to solve in our country, either," said Sõerd.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said Estonia is now on an equal footing with the country's most important allies.

"This will certainly bring us into the family of the Nordic countries and other democracies that recognize the equal right of all people to marry, and this is extremely welcome," she said.

"Isn't everyone thinking along these lines? Of course, there are different views in Hungary and Poland, but in general, the other Eastern European countries are also thinking along these lines," said Kallas.

Estonia is the first Baltic state to grant equal marriage rights to gay couples and the second country, after Slovenia, that joined the EU in 2004.


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Editor: Barbara Oja, Helen Wright

Source: Aktuaalne kaamera

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