MPs who opposed the cohabitation act, now support same-sex marriage

Marko Mihkelson (Reform) and Margus Tsahkna (Eesti 200) announcing their withdrawal from the IRL on 26 June, 2017..
Marko Mihkelson (Reform) and Margus Tsahkna (Eesti 200) announcing their withdrawal from the IRL on 26 June, 2017.. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Liisa Pakosta (Eesti 200), Annely Akkermann (Reform) and Marko Mihkelson (Reform), who did not support the cohabitation act in the 2014 Riigikogu as members of Isamaa and Res Publica Union, explained why they now support the same-sex marriage law. Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna (Eesti 200) described the cohabitation act as a half-measure.

"Estonia is now one of the countries with a Western European culture where people of any sexual orientation can enter into a state-sanctioned marriage, which is possible between a man and a woman, and between two women or two men," Pakosta told ERR.

She explained that her vote against the bill in 2014 was based on the fact that children's rights were not adequately protected, but this issue has been resolved.

"Important additions to the Family Law Act have yet to be made for the protection of minors. In the population register for children, three parents could have appeared. In Estonia, a child can have a maximum of two parents, typically a mother and a father, but in some circumstances a mother and a second parent or a father and a second parent. And this frees children from the protracted court battles they had previously endured over these parental issues," Pakosta explained.

"My personal stance on this issue has not changed. During the drafting of the cohabitation act, of which I was a member, it was evident for me that marriage equality would be the solution," she said.

Akkermannm said that Estonian society was not ready for such a law in 2014, when she voted against the cohabitation bill.

"Legislation must suit the majority. And in 2014, the majority of people were not ready to accept it; societal acceptance was not strong. In my view, if society is willing to accept it, the family law could be amended and same-sex marriages can be allowed," Akkermann said.

Mihkelson, the current member of the Reform Party's parliamentary group and a member of Isamaa in the Riigikogu at the time, abstained from voting in favor of the approval of the cohabitation act in 2014.

Because I was a member of Isamaa at the time, and Isamaa had decided to strongly oppose the act, my choice not to vote was more of a disagreement with the party's position. This, along with several other value issues, prompted me to make the decision to leave Isamaa in 2017," Mihkelson said.

Mihkelson said that he did not feel the decision to allow same-sex couples to marry could be reversed. "I do not believe that people's rights and liberties could be revoked. I consider it a very significant step in the development of our society and I have no doubt that our allies and partners will welcome it warmly," he added.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna (Eesti 200), who left IRL (present Isamaa) together with Mihkelson in 2017, said that the cohabitation act is a half-way measure.

"One of the primary reasons I left IRL, or Isamaa, was a clash of worldviews, and I was obviously on the liberal side of the IRL alongside Marko Mihkelson. And the other is that I have always believed, and was involved in those coalition negotiations, that the cohabitation law is not the solution, but that marriage equality is. At the time, the discussion was clearly at a point where society had not yet spoken up. Today, the vast majority of society is in favor of marriage equality," Tsahkna said.

"We are a country that respects all people's rights, and this sends a strong message to the rest of the world. We have heard from people all the way up to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who publicly congratulated Estonia on the achievement. In terms of personal freedoms and the image of Estonia as a state, we have reached a whole new level," Tsahkna continued.

Urmas Reinsalu, chair of Isamaa, said the introduction of same-sex marriage would result in a a cultural clash and the destruction of marriage as a cultural institution.

"Having known Urmas for a long time, I think he does not believe what he says. He, however, heads a very pro-EKRE party now," Tsahkna said. "He has to speak the way the party wants him to speak."

Click here (link in Estonian) to view the 2014 Riigikogu vote on the cohabitation bill.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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