Estonia becomes first Baltic state to legalize same-sex marriage

The Family Law Act will allow adults to marry "regardless of their gender" beginning in 2024.
Participants of the 2017 pride parade in Tallinn, Estonia.
Posted at 3:32 PM, Jun 20, 2023

In a revolutionary move, Estonia's parliament passed legislation Tuesday making it the first ex-Soviet state to legalize same-sex marriage.

In a 55-34 vote, the Baltic country's legislature passed amendments to the Family Law Act that will allow adults to marry "regardless of their gender" beginning in 2024. The amendments also allow same-sex adults to adopt children, something that was previously outlawed.

"Everyone should have the right to marry the person they love and want to commit to," Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said in a statement. "With this decision we are finally stepping among other Nordic countries as well as all the rest of the democratic countries in the world where marriage equality has been granted."

While several Western European countries have already legalized same-sex marriage, the small Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have been slower to adopt Western ideologies like LGBTQ+ rights. All three countries regained independence from the Soviet Union following the Cold War.

"This is a decision that does not take anything away from anyone but gives something important to many," Kallas continued. "It also shows that our society is caring and respectful towards each other. I am proud of Estonia."

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Same-sex relationships have been recognized in Estonia since 2016 under the Registered Partnership Act, but marriage has been reserved for couples of the opposite sex. In a recent poll conducted by the Estonian Human Rights Centre, 53% of respondents indicated support for same-sex marriage. A decade ago, 60% opposed it.

"I am genuinely very grateful for the patience and understanding the LGBT+ community has shown for all these years," said Signe Riisalo, minister of social protection. "Although these changes are in many ways purely technical, there is no ignoring their significance ... I am delighted that the decision has now been taken for a more forward-looking Estonia that cares for all."