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Same-sex marriage to bring new gender neutral forms

Tallinn Vital Statistics Department.
Tallinn Vital Statistics Department. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Vital statistics offices will carry new gender neutral forms to accommodate same-sex marriage in Estonia starting from next year. Traditional forms where future spouses are listed as "man" and "woman" will also remain available.

"The changes were introduced so as not to hurt anyone's feelings and for the forms to be practical in the case of same-sex spouses. Forms that list a "man" and "woman" as getting married will remain available of course," said Ulvi Klaar, population policy adviser at the Ministry of the Interior.

The relevant Interior Ministry regulation, set to be published in the State Gazette next week, also specifies rules for choice of surname. "The simultaneous entry into force of Registered Partnership Act implementing provisions means that registered partners can also have the same last name," Klaar clarified.

People can apply for marriage one to six months in advance starting from January. Klaar said that the earliest that people can enter into a same-sex marriage in Estonia is February 2 or 3, depending on whether the application is filed at the vital statistics office on January 2 or virtually on January 1.

EELK working group to discuss marriage issue

Ministers of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELK) will not be registering same-sex marriages next year, said Toomas Nigula, member of of the EELK Consistory. "We couldn't do it for procedural reasons alone because registration always happens together with the marriage ceremony in the Lutheran church, and the EELK does not marry same-sex couples," Nigola said.

But the clergyman admitted that debates whether EELK should follow the Nordics' example in also marrying same-sex couples are ongoing in Estonia, even if they are not very active. "There are all manner of debates, and the EELK has a working group for discussing this and other sensitive issues, even though it would be more accurate to say they are still debating how to debate these matters. However, it is unlikely that a decision will be reached in the coming years, changes [to the liturgy] remain highly unlikely," Nigola said. Any final decision regarding the latter would have to be made by a congress of clerics.

The Riigikogu on June 20 passed amendments to the Family Act, which it had tied to a vote of confidence in the government, that give same-sex couples the right to get married in Estonia. The amendments were backed by 55 and opposed by 34 MPs.

Next to getting married, people in Estonia can also enter into a registered partnership agreement. The new law provides provisions necessary for implementing the Registered Partnership Act and creates a simplified procedure for switching from registered partnership to marriage. The Family Act also introduces changes to how filiation is regulated in connection with same-sex couples' right to adopt.

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Editor: Mari Peegel, Marcus Turovski

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