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Estonia becomes first ex-Soviet state to legalize same-sex marriage

A pride march in Tallinn, Estonia, in 2006, Ints Kalnins/Reuters

Estonia’s parliament passed on Tuesday a law legalizing same-sex marriage, becoming the first ex-Soviet country to do so.

Two adults will be able to marry “regardless of their gender,” after the parliament approved amendments to the country’s Family Law Act, according to a press statement.

The amended act will go into effect from January 1, 2024.

The amendments to the Family Law Act also mean that same-sex couples can now adopt children. In Estonia, only a married couple can adopt a child, although single gay, lesbian and bisexual people can also petition to adopt.

“Everyone should have the right to marry the person they love and want to commit to,” Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said. “With this decision we are finally stepping among other Nordic countries as well as all the rest of the democratic countries in the world where marriage equality has been granted.

“This is a decision that does not take anything away from anyone but gives something important to many,” she continued. “It also shows that our society is caring and respectful towards each other. I am proud of Estonia.”

The Parliament building in Tallinn, Estonia, Geoff Moore/Shutterstock

Same-sex relationships have been legally recognized in Estonia since 2016, when the Registered Partnership Act took effect. But while this act recognized couples regardless of their sex, marriage was only allowed to take place between members of the opposite sex.

A survey undertaken by the Estonian Human Rights Centre in April 2023 found that 53% of the Estonians believe that “same-sex partners should have the right to marry each other.”

This is the highest percentage recorded since the survey began in 2012. Then, 60% of people surveyed were against marriage equality.

“I am genuinely very grateful for the patience and understanding the LGBT+ community has shown for all these years,” said Signe Riisalo, Estonia’s Minister of Social Protection.

“I hope that, in time, those opposed to marriage equality come to see that we don’t lose anything from taking such steps, but rather that we all gain from them,” Riisalo added. “I am delighted that the decision has now been taken for a more forward-looking Estonia that cares for all.”


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