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Estonia Legalises Same-Sex Marriage

Alice Huaut


June 27th, 2023


Last week, on June 20, 2023, Estonia became the first ex-soviet state to pass a law allowing same-sex marriage.


Votes in Parliament  


Before the final vote, right-wing protestors challenged legislation, claiming same-sex marriage threatens the traditional family model. However, despite protests, the Riigikogu–the Estonian parliament– saw 55 votes in favor of the motion with 34 votes against it.


Kaya Kallas, the prime minister of Estonia, recently announced: “This is a decision that does not take anything away from anyone but gives something important to many.”


Recognition of Same-Sex Relationships


In Estonia, same-sex relationships have been legal since the Registered Partnership Act came into law in 2016. Although this law recognized relationships between people of either sex, marriage was only permitted between people of the same sex.


According to an April 2023 survey directed by the Estonian Human Rights Centre, about 53% of Estonians admitted they didn’t think "same-sex partners should have the right to marry each other.” This is the highest proportion ever recorded. In 2012, according to the Estonian Human Rights Centre polls, 60% of Estonians opposed marriage equality.


A Geopolitical Statement


Among those who voted in favor of the law, Social Democrat MP Eduard Odinets states, "This vote allows us to break, once and for all, with the ideology and values of the Soviet era." However, more specifically, the vote by the Riigikogu demonstrates a direct geopolitical stance regarding Putin's Russia and the war in Ukraine. 


Skillfully, Putin has worked towards reconnecting Russia with its Soviet heritage to construct a strong Russian identity–following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the absence of a Soviet identity prompted the independence of ex-soviet states. Estonia, by breaking away from the values of the Soviet era, is breaking away from Putin's Russia.


The Kremlin today is recycling the Soviet era's pre-World War II anti-western stance and instrumentalizing contemporary identity politics. While the West promotes identity politics, the Kremlin shapes policy and opposes itself to the support of feminist and LGBTQIA2S+ rights. During Putin’s presidency, legislation targeting LGBTQ+ issues became a center legitimizing tool. For instance, in 2020, Putin signed the "codification of marriage as a strictly heterosexual institution in the Russian constitution.”




This short article focuses on informing readers about the progress made, relative to the acceptance of the LGBTQIA2S+ community. Furthermore, the contextual variables influencing the passing of same-sex marriage legislation in Estonia are also related to Russia’s view on identity politics and the war in Ukraine. Some LGBTQIA2S+ community members strive to create an impression of a community driven by an apolitical stance where everyone is accepted, regardless of their gender, values, and political opinions. Nonetheless, the passing of legislation, supporting or opposing LGBTQIA2S+ rights remains political.


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