Many countries have defined marriage exclusively as a union between a man and a woman in their constitutions. Will Estonia follow that path? We would like to believe that, because the parties in the governing coalition of Estonia intend to hold a referendum in 2021 and to enshrine in their Constitution the traditional and natural understanding of marriage as a union of a man and a woman.
The current Estonian government, formed in Spring 2019, is comprised of the Estonian Centre Party (Eesti Keskerakond), Isamaa (Pro Patria) and the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia. The marriage amendment was proposed by the Isamaa Party back in 2016 and later supported by the Conservative People’s Party. At the latter’s insistence, a clause was added to the coalition agreement of the parties in 2019 that a referendum on the corresponding amendment of the Constitution should be held in Autumn 2021 at the same time as municipal elections. However, the current leader of the Centre Party, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, does not think that such an amendment is necessary at the moment.
Interest in this issue has been fueled by the scandal caused by the actions of Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid. The President has decided not to proclaim amendments to the Foreign Service Act adopted by the Riigikogu [Estonian Parliament ], because, in her opinion, they do not ensure equal treatment for “married” same-sex couples who have registered their relationship on the basis of the Cohabitation Act.
Simply put, Kaljulaid argued that same-sex cohabitation should be maintained in the diplomatic service in the same way as marriages, and that a different situation allegedly constituted “discrimination.” The position of the Estonian President is not surprising, as in June she even received a special award from the LGBT-movement and became a “rainbow hero.” She obviously believes that promoting the interests of sexual minorities is “a struggle against primitive xenophobia and devastation” – but it is unlikely that she was elected for this purpose.
Minister of Finance Martin Helme (Conservative People’s Party) spoke very strongly about the President’s actions: “Kaljulaid bases her rainbow-colored political activism on unconstitutionality. […] Any political choice by the current [governing] coalition is unconstitutional. Usually this is in reference to section 12, which prohibits discrimination.” He added that as she’s pretending that this is not a political activism but constitutional control, she’s lying, and urged her to resign.
Isamaa Party Chairman Helir-Valdor Seder said, as reported by ERR.ee, that the President’s decision once again shows the need for constitutional change: “In light of this decision, it is clear that concrete steps must be taken to protect the institution of marriage. This is a question of values, which stems from the long history and traditions of the institution of marriage. Introducing a definition of marriage in the Constitution would show that the state values and supports a strong institution of family and marriage, and would bring clarity to Estonian legislation.”