Estonia to allow same-sex marriage starting in 2024

HELSINKI (AP) — Estonia’s lawmakers approved legislation Tuesday allowing same-sex marriage as of next year, making Estonia the first of the three Baltic countries to do so.

The 101-seat Riigikogu legislature passed in a 55-34 vote amendments to Estonia’s Family Law Act and related legislation that will enable the introduction of marriage equality in the small country of 1.3 million as of Jan. 1, 2024.

Like former Eastern bloc countries, the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have been slower to embrace LGBTQ+ rights than most countries in Western Europe. The Baltic countries regained independence from the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War.

Parliament’s measure was tied to a confidence vote on Prime Minister Kaja Kallas’ center-right government, which has been under pressure from conservative opposition parties and civil society groups to maintain what they say are traditional family values by rejecting same-sex marriage.

“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,“ Kallas 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 said.

Along with equal marriage, Estonians will continue to enjoy the right to enter into a registered partnership. Same-sex couples who enter into a registered partnership will also be able to convert their status to marriage in a simplified procedure.

Last month, Latvia’s Parliament voted the country’s long-serving and popular Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics, who is openly gay, as the new president, making him one of Europe’s few LGBTQ+ heads of state.