News (World)

Same-sex couples can now get married in Estonia

Baltic Pride in Tallinn, Estonia, June 10, 2023
Baltic Pride in Tallinn, Estonia, June 10, 2023 Photo: Shutterstock

Starting this week, same-sex couples can get married in Estonia, making it the first former Soviet nation to legalize marriage equality.

Legislation for marriage equality passed the Baltic state’s parliament with a vote of 55 to 34 last June, which followed the election of progressive Prime Minister Kaja Kallas in February 2023. The law went into effect on January 1, which was this past Monday.

Now, same-sex couples can apply for marriage online. Applications usually take one to six months to process and the first aren’t expected to be completed before February 2.

“Laws provide clarity and influence our attitudes,” said Minister of Social Protection Signe Riisalo. “I hope that unfounded fears will recede and that critics of this decision will realize that what is being taken away is not something that is being taken away, but something very important that is being added for many of us.”

This past June, LGBTQ+ Estonians praised parliament for passing the law, with many couples who had civil unions planning to get married.

“For the LGBT+ community, it is a very important message from the government that says, finally, we are as equal as other couples; that we are valuable and entitled to the same services and have the same options,” Baltic Pride festival manager Keio Soomelt told The Guardian.

Homosexuality was decriminalized in Estonia in 1991, the same year that the country broke away from the Soviet Union. However, only recently has a majority of the country supported same-sex marriage; 34% of Estonians supported marriage equality 10 years ago, while a bare majority – 53% – support it now, according to an Estonian Human Rights Center poll.

“Ten years ago, I didn’t see as many same-sex couples holding hands in public,” said teacher Marielle Tuum, a resident of Tallinn. “People are more open now in Estonia.” She said she is planning to marry her girlfriend in the spring and have a wedding in the fall.

“I’m really happy that I can do a proper wedding at home and not elsewhere, that has less meaning.”

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