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Same-sex couples able to marry in Estonia from New Year’s Day

Same-sex couples able to marry in Estonia from New Year’s Day


NSame-sex couples in Estonia are able to marry from today, in a milestone move people say brings the Baltic nation closer to its Nordic neighbours.

Estonia became the first former Soviet-ruled country to legalise gay marriage when the Riigikogu, Estonia’s parliament, voted in favour of marriage equality in June. A majority of 55 MPs voted for amending the Family Act, while 34 MPs voted against the bill in the 101-seat parliament.

The election victory of the prime minister, Kaja Kallas, in February, who has since led the country’s most progressive coalition government, is credited with bolstering efforts to achieve marriage equality.

“It’s an important moment that shows Estonia is a part of northern Europe,” said Keio Soomelt, project manager for the Baltic Pride festival.

“For the LGBT+ community, it is a very important message from the government that says, finally, we are as equal as other couples; that we are valuable and entitled to the same services and have the same options,” said Soomelt, who will swap his civil partnership of eight years for a marriage with his husband in 2024.

The law came into effect on Monday, with same-sex couples able to register their marriage applications online from New Year’s Day. The first applications will be processed and certified by 2 February, with applications typically taking one to six months to process.

Perceptions of same sex marriage have shifted in recent years in the largely non-religious country of 1.3 million. In a poll conducted by the Estonian Centre for Human Rights this year, 53% of Estonians supported same-sex marriage. A decade ago, it was just 34%.

Civil partnerships and cohabiting partners have been legally recognised by Estonia since 2013.

Marielle Tuum, a 24-year-old teacher from Tallinn, said: “Ten years ago, I didn’t see as many same-sex couples holding hands in public. People are more open now in Estonia. Tuum and her 26-year-old German girlfriend, Annika Unkauf, will register their marriage in spring, and hope to celebrate with family and friends in autumn.

“I’m really happy that I can do a proper wedding at home and not elsewhere, that has less meaning,” she said.

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Estonia’s largely secular outlook has helped shift opinions on LGBTQ+ people within the last decade. Corporate sponsorship of this year’s Baltic Pride was at an all-time high, with Estonia’s biggest telecommunications company, Telia, among 16 other businesses, openly funding the festival.

Homosexuality was decriminalised in 1991 when Estonia broke away from Soviet rule. However, discrimination and violence persists. A gay pastor was stabbed in a Tallinn bar during Pride celebrations in June, while LGBTQ+ army conscripts reportedly face additional checks.

Gay marriage is opposed by the majority of Estonia’s Russian-speaking population, who comprise about a quarter of the country.



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