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Same-sex couples line up to register under Latvia’s new civil union law

Maksims Ringo and Janis Locs, the first Latvian same-sex couple to register their partnership
Maksims Ringo and Janis Locs, the first Latvian same-sex couple to register their partnership Photo: X video screenshot

Two Latvian men, Maksims Ringo and Janis Locs, have become the first same-sex couple to register their partnership as a civil union under a new nationwide law that went into effect on Monday. Other couples have begun lining up outside of the country’s notary offices, eager to register their own unions as quickly as possible, one national gay rights activist noted.

The couple registered their union at a legal office in the capital city of Riga, just after midnight on Monday. They exchanged silver rings at a party in the city’s main library with the hopes of replacing them with gold rings if Latvia ever legalizes same-sex marriage, Reuters reported.

“We are together for five and a half years … so for us, it’s mostly practical,” Ringo said, noting that they got a civil union to secure certain civil rights like hospital visitation. The legal unions also provide some tax and social security benefits, though they don’t allow for adoption or full inheritance rights.

Though legislators amended the Latvian constitution in 2005 to define marriage as being only between a man and a woman, last November the Latvian parliament passed same-sex civil unions in response to a successful lawsuit by 46 same-sex couples who demanded legal recognition from the courts.

Because of the new law, there are now only five countries in the European Union that don’t offer civil unions to same-sex couples: Bulgaria, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia.

Kaspars Zālītis, leader of the Dzīvesbiedri (Life Partners) equality movement, said in a press release: “The introduction of partnership in Latvia is an important step towards a more equal, inclusive and empathetic society, in which each person feels valued and can realize his or her potential both in personal and professional life.”

“The introduction of the Institute of Partnership Law is an important signal that all families in Latvia are protected, valued, and recognized. This is extremely important for people who have remained invisible to the state, not only in practical matters of everyday life but also emotionally. This long-awaited moment will positively change the lives of many people,” Zālītis added.

In July 2023, Latvia swore in Edgars Rinkēvičs, 49, as president over the weekend, making him the country’s first out LGBTQ+ president.

“Latvia is a sovereign, free, and democratic country,” he said in his inaugural address to parliament. “But it must be legal and fair for all. Every person in Latvia, its citizens, must feel that they belong, legally protected and safe.”

One of Latvia’s most popular politicians, Rinkēvičs has served as the country’s top diplomat since 2011. He came out publicly in 2014, saying he was “proudly” gay.

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