Estonia legalises same-sex marriage in historic first for a central European country

Estonia

Estonia’s parliament has voted to legalise same-sex marriage, making it the first Baltic – and central European – country to do so.

The bill was approved by 55 votes to 34 in the 101-seat parliament on Tuesday (20 June), and will come into effect next year.

Speaking to Reuters after the vote on Tuesday (20 June), prime minister Kaja Kallas said her message to central Europe was that “it’s a difficult fight, but marriage and love is something that you have to promote”.

While same-sex marriage has become the norm in western Europe, large swatches of eastern and central Europe remain hostile to LGBTQ+ rights, particularly countries such as Poland and Hungary.

Kallas added that Estonia had “developed a lot in those 30 years” since it gained independence from the Soviet Union.

“We are equals among same-value countries.”

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In a post on social media, Kallas voiced her pride for Estonia, saying: “We’re building a society where everyone’s rights are respected and people can love freely.”

A recent poll by the Centre for Human Rights showed 53 per cent of Estonia’s population supported same-sex marriage, up from 34 per cent a decade ago, according to Reuters.

The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, praised the country on social media, writing: “Congratulations to the people and government of Estonia on the passage of marriage equality legislation and the recognition of same-sex families.

“In this historic moment, the United States is proud to stand with you in support of LGBTQI+ communities everywhere.“

In an interview with Lithuanian National Radio and Television earlier this month, the chairman of Estonia’s parliament, Lauri Hussar, indicated that same-sex marriage legislation was on the way.

He highlighted how in other countries where it was legal “society moved forward”, noting there will still pockets – the Church and the conservatives – who opposed the bill.

Two other Baltic countries, Lithuania and Latvia, have same-sex partnership bills before their parliaments.