RIGA, December 21, 2005 – A
last-ditch plea to the Latvian President from a group of European Members of
Parliament, led by openly-gay Michael Cashman, failed to alter her decision to sign the constitutional amendment
defining marriage as being between a man and a woman which was passed last
week by the Latvian parliament.
Michael Cashman, MEP
And the decision by President Vaira
Vike-Freiberga has today left gays in Latvia “bitterly disappointed”, and
calling on her to take active part in legislation that would bring-in a
legal recognition of same-sex partnerships.
“Latvian lesbians, gay, bisexual
and transgender (LGBT) people and their supporters and bitterly disappointed
regarding the decision of Vaira Vike-Freiberga, the President of Latvia, to
sing into a law a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union
between a man and a woman only,” Imants Kozlovskis, the executive director
of ILGA-Latvia, said in a statement this evening.
“We believe our President missed a
unique opportunity to stop the development of homophobia and hate within
Latvian politics. Signing the amendment, the President of Latvia legally
supported a pointless piece of legislation which was created because and
only for one reason – to cement a barrier for same-sex partners to ever
become equal citizens with the rest of the society in a county constitution.
“It is pitiful that the President
of Latvia did not notice the nature of the amendment – a single political
party’s pre-election populist campaign when LGBT people were used as a
target for hate, humiliation and harassment,” he claimed.
Latvia has now confirmed in its
basic law, which states the country’s fundamental principles, that
homophobia is one of this country’s basic principles, he suggested.
“We believe that the President of
Latvia indirectly gave a ‘green light’ to further humiliation and
discrimination against LGBT people in Latvia.
“We found hypocritical her calls on
the Latvian politicians to avoid homophobic statements and respect each
person’s value since signing the constitutional amendment she is sending a
completely opposite message.
“We call on the President of Latvia
to prove that she believes in such principles as equality and
non-discrimination and call on her to take active part in a legal initiative
toward legislation recognising same-sex partnerships.
“Only by doing so, can the
President of Latvia demonstrate that Latvia is a nation where everyone
enjoys a right to life free from discrimination,” Mr Kozlovskis concluded.
In a letter faxed to the President
yesterday, the Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights at the European Union,
MEPs appealed to her not to sign the amendment, saying that it was important
that “strong signals” be sent to the First Party of Latvia, which initiated
In the letter, signed by Intergoup
president Michael Cashman and vice presidents Sophie in 't Veld, Raúl Romeva
and Alexander Stubb, attention was drawn to Article 13 of the founding
treaty of the European Communities which states one of the fundamental
principles of the EU – a ban against discrimination on the basis of sexual
FULL TEXT OF THE LETTER
Brussels, 20th December 2005
Dear President Vike-Freiberga,
We are writing to you to ask you to
reject the amendment to Article 110 of the Constitution defining marriage as
a union of a man and a woman only, which was adopted on 15 December by the
Latvian Parliament. The amendment, initiated by the First Party of Latvia,
is clearly motivated by homophobia and a result of the aggressive homophobic
campaign following the first LGBT Pride march in Riga last July. In our view
it is important to send a strong signal that such actions are unacceptable.
More than half of the EU member
states support the recognition of same-sex partners, and subsequently
granting them rights and obligations which are secured by marriage for
heterosexual couples such as rent, pensions and inheritance. Representatives
of the First Party have not hidden the fact that the basic motivation behind
this amendment is to keep Latvia from joining the European member states
that legally recognise partnerships between persons of the same sex.
The constitutional amendment is
legally pointless, since same-sex marriage is already banned in Article 35.2
of the Civil Law, and discriminatory, because it limits rights of a certain
group of people instead of extending them. In addition, the amendment risks
stimulating further development of intolerance and homophobia in Latvia.
Latvia has joined the European
Union and the Council of Europe, thus supporting values such as equality and
non-discrimination. We would therefore kindly like to remind you of Latvia's
- When joining the Council of
Europe, Latvia acceded the European Human Rights Convention, whose Article
12 bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation;
- The European Court of Human
Rights has ruled that the Convention protects the rights of same-sex
partners to family life (the ruling Karner vs. Austria, 2003), thus
establishing legal practice which makes clear that discrimination on the
basis of sexual orientation is a violation of the Convention
- Article 13 of the founding treaty
of the European Communities states one of the fundamental principles of the
EU - a ban against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation;
- Similarly, Article 21 of the
European Union's Charter of Human Rights bans any discrimination on the
basis of sexual orientation;
- Directive 2000/78/EC on equal
rights in employment specifies that EU member states must ban all
discrimination in the field of employment, including discrimination based on
- Directive 2004/38/EC recognises
same sex partners and awards them the same right that applies to one of the
fundamental principles of the EU - free movement within the EU;
For the reasons listed in this
letter, we ask you to reject the amendment and remind the members of the
Latvian government of its obligations with regard to protection against
discrimination as formulated in article 13 of the Treaty on the European
President, European Parliament's Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights
Sophie in 't Veld, Raúl Romeva and
Vice Presidents, European Parliament's Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights
Of Gay and Lesbian Marriage, Partnership or Unions Worldwide.
From the Netherlands in 1979 to the UK's new law effective today, all the
legislation - strong and weak - that recognises same-sex partnerships to
some degree or another.
(UK Gay News, December 5, 2005)
President Signs Anti-Gay Constitutional
Amendment. The President of Latvia, Dr. Vaira Vike-Freiberga, has signed the
constitutional amendment defining marriage as only between a man and a
woman. Latvia becomes the first country in Europe to have an
anti-gay clause in its constitution. (UK Gay News, December 21, 2005)
‘Gay Marriage’ Decision Expected Today. Latvian Radio is reporting that
President Vaira Vike-Freiberga might be
announcing today her decision on the proposed constitutional amendment that
defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. (UK Gay News, December
Latvian Gays Seek International Support for Petition to President. Gay and lesbian activists have
launched an online petition calling on the Latvian president not to sign the
constitutional amendment that would define marriage as being between a man
and a woman. (UK Gay News, December 18)
TV Personality Criticises Latvian Parliament As Euro-MPs Have Their Say.
From an “out gay” television personality in Latvia to Members of the
European Parliament, there has been continued criticism of Latvia's Saeima (Parliament) following the third and final
reading of the Constitutional Amendment that will define “marriage” as being
between a man and a woman. (UK Gay News, December 15, 2005)
Latvia Cements Homophobia Into Constitution As Gay
Marriage is Banned. The Latvia Parliament has adopted a
constitutional change that defines marriage as a union of a man and a woman.
This will prevent any possibility for gay marriage in the future. This morning, 65 MPs voted in
favour of the change at the amendment’s third – and final – reading in
Parliament. (UK Gay News, December 15, 2005)
Latvia Moving Backwards, Say Gay and Lesbian Intergroup of MEPs. Two leading Members of the European
Parliament’s gay and lesbian rights ‘Intergroup’ have today expressed
“serious concern” on the increased homophobia in Latvia. (UK Gay News,
December 6, 2005)
Put on Gay Marriage by Latvian Parliament.
A change in the constitution that will define marriage as being between a
man and a woman, and blocks the way for “gay marriage”, became a virtual
certainty today when the 100-seat Latvian parliament passed the proposal
with a massive majority in the amendment’s second reading. (UK Gay News,
December 1, 2005)
Gays in Latvia Have an Official Watchdog.
A new independent department that will keep an eye on discrimination
has been set-up by the government in
Latvia. And the National
Human Rights Office will be embracing the gay and lesbian community
as well as other sections of society as well as racism and other
forms of discrimination. (UK Gay News, November 30, 2005)