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First Test of Tolerance and Common European Values in Estonia for Gays



Call for Action



TALLINN, January 10, 2005  –  Days before Christmas, the Ministry of Social Affairs in Estonia called for a public debate on same-sex relationships.  In many ways, it was a ‘seasonal gift’ to the country’s gay community – but it turned out to be short-lived as Estonia could be heading in the same direction as their Baltic neighbours Latvia and Lithuania.

On January 4, the leading LGBT organisations and supportive NGO grabbed the opportunity given them by the government and responded, calling for a stop to discrimination of the LGBT community – and to initiate a “partnership” law that would be accessible to both same-sex and heterosexual couples.

Additionally, the government was asked to permit Estonian citizens to enter into same-sex partnerships or marriages in countries where such laws exist.

Currently, gay Estonian men and women are not even permitted to marry or form civil partnerships in other European countries.

Since the ad hoc group responded to government last week, the debate has been one-sided, sending out an impression that the Estonian government and relevant institutions are not even taking interest in the topic, regardless the fact that the society is showing its growing homophobia and the rights of same-sex families clearly need to be legalized.

As of today, first official answers have arrived.

Väino Linde, Chief of Commission of Constitution, stated that he “is glad to see the conservative views in the Parliament and in the Commission of Constitution” and hence the decision of the commission being: there is no need to create a separate law for same-sex families since through several laws and agreements the rights of same-sex couples can be protected.

This statement, LGBT campaigners say, is “strongly untrue when it comes to comparing these laws to the family law.  Mr. Linde even stated that he personally is glad to see the conservative views amongst the parliament and public.”.

Many leading politicians have stated that Estonian society is not yet ready for same-sex marriages.

But leading gay activists have said that they are willing to compromise when it comes to marriages and would be very delighted to see a partnership law instead.

Out of six parliamentary political parties, the only one to show its public support for a partnership law so far is the opposition Social Democratic Party.  Right wing conservative Isamaaliit (Pro Patria Union), Res Publica and centrists Rahvaliit (Peoples Union) have all stated their disapproval, while Keskerakond (Centre Party) and Reformierakond (Reform Party) have expressed modest tolerance – but have not yet issued any official statements.

Leading gay activists of Estonia, Lisette Kampus of Diversity and Ardi Ravalepik of Estonian Gay League are expressing their “strongest disappointment” that at the time when the rest of the Europe is showing its growing tolerance and concern about same-sex families and children that grow in such families, Estonian politicians and public figures are still at the level of comparing homosexuality with “a disease or a problem”

“Politicans generally are doing absolutely nothing to show gay families that they are just as equal as any other family that shares a safe home, humanistic values, loving and appreciating surroundings,” they said in a joint statement.

Lisette Kampus and Ardi Ravalepik also say that by using such demagogic sentences as “Estonia is not yet ready” and “rights of homosexuals are regulated by the existing law”, the politicians and institutions are saying to the society that it is okay not to accept same-sex families because the state doesn’t accept them either.

“All we are asking from our country is to acknowledge the existence of same-sex families by creating a partnership law which would regulate the rights and obligations of partners, said Lisette Kampus.

“Yet, all our country is saying is that ‘we are not ready’. In this case, I would like to ask, what is stopping them being ready when the concerned social group is clearly saying that they are ready,” Kampus asked?

Ardi Ravalepik continued: “It seems that the politicians are reading these few hundred homophobic comments under articles about the topic and hide behind them, but on the other hand, there are approximately 60,000 homosexuals in Estonia, not even to mention the intelligent people that are above the commentators in yellow newspapers, and none seems to ask their opinion!”.

Kampus and Ravalepik also say that they had a belief that Estonia is willing to belong to Scandinavia rather than Eastern-Europe where such discriminative policies are practised.

“As the recent past shows, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are once again regaining their unity, but it is extremely sad that this unity has such an anti-European shade,” they say.

In a democratic state of the European Union such discrimination as
■ not acknowledging same-sex families as alternative form of family;
■ not allowing citizens to enter into civil unions or marriages in other countries where it is possible;
■ not providing same-sex couples such a legal protection as partnership law;
is fully unacceptable, they claim.

“We call upon any organisation or person to send in their letters of protest against such discriminative politics in Estonia, one of the three Baltic States,” Kampus and Ravalepik pleaded.

■ Emails can be sent to the following addresses:

Mr. Jaak Aab, Minister of Social Affairs -
Mr. Rein Lang, Minister of Justice -
Mr. Allar Jõks, Chancellor of Justice -
Ms. Ene Ergma, Speaker of Riigikogu (parliament) -
Commission of Constitution -
Commission of Social Affairs -
Center Party in the Parliament -
Reform Party in the Parliament -
Social Democratic Party in the Parliament -


Estonia Gay League website (Estonian lanuage only)




Posted: 10 January 2006 at 23:00 (UK time)