Estonia has become the first Baltic country and the second Eastern European country to legalise same-sex marriage.
The parliament voted 55-34 on Tuesday to approve amendments to the Family Law Act, which will allow any two natural persons of legal age, regardless of gender, to marry from January 1, 2024.
The law will also grant same-sex couples equal rights to adopt children and enter into cohabitation agreements.
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, who leads a centre-right coalition government, said she was proud of her country for making the historic decision.
“Everyone should have the right to marry the person they love and want to commit to. With this decision we are finally stepping among … all the rest of the democratic countries in the world where marriage equality has been granted,” she said in a statement.
“This is a decision that does not take anything away from anyone but gives something important to many. It also shows that our society is caring and respectful towards each other. I am proud of Estonia,” she added.
The legislation was tied to a confidence vote on Kallas’ government, which faced opposition from conservative parties and groups that argued that same-sex marriage would threaten the traditional family model.
However, public opinion in Estonia has become more supportive of LGBTQ+ rights in recent years. According to a survey conducted by the Estonian Human Rights Centre, 53% of the population supports marriage equality, compared with 34% in 2012.
Estonia introduced same-sex civil unions in 2014 with the Registered Partnership Act, but it did not guarantee the same adoption rights and parental recognition that automatically come with marriage.
The proposal also clarifies the Family Law Act’s regulation of parenthood in regards to same-sex couples’ adoption rights.
Estonia follows Slovenia as the second Eastern European country to legalise same-sex marriage. Slovenia passed a similar law in 2015, but it was later overturned by a referendum.
Same-sex marriage is legal in much of Western Europe, but not in most Central European countries that were once under communist rule and members of the Moscow-led Warsaw Pact alliance.
Estonia, along with Latvia and Lithuania, regained independence from the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War and joined NATO and the European Union in 2004.
– Historic decision: Estonia legalizes same-sex marriage, ERR News, 6/20/2023
– Estonia becomes first central European country to allow same-sex marriage, Reuters, 6/20/2023
– Estonia to allow same-sex marriage starting in 2024, ABC News, 6/20/2023
– Estonia legalizes same-sex marriage, POLITICO, 6/20/2023