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Kross: homophobia represents the mindset of Putin

Eerik-Niiles Kross. PHOTO: Andres Haabu

Defying party discipline, IRL vice chairman Eerik-Niiles Kross defends ratification of cohabitation law in Riigikogu.

Last Thursday, 40 parliamentarians presented Riigikogu a bill providing same sex couples the opportunity to get officially registered, share loan obligations, and adopt the partner’s kids. In Estonia, that would be a first. IRL, excluding approval of the law, countered with clauses of their own.

Vice chairman of said party Eerik-Niiles Kross is in favour of the bill pushed by Reform Party/Soc Dems power tandem, targeting its ratification by Midsummer Day.

During run-up to local elections, you were asked on TV what you think on civil partnership. You were for it. Must you now change your mind, seeing the party thinks different?

I generally do not change my mind as the winds blow. I have repeatedly said I favour legalising the civil partnership.

But that’s against the conservative world view by IRL. Already, the party is voicing disapproval, even the option of sanctions in the case of Riigikogu members, who would say yes.

The majority of IRL faction is indeed against. Still, there’s no contradiction with the classical conservative world view. Rather, the conservative view honours personal freedoms, won’t tolerate state interfering in people’s personal life, nor does it tolerate discrimination on any basis including sexual orientation. Let me point to Roland Reagan and Dick Cheney, for me figureheads of right wing conservatism. While governor of California and running for President at the end of 1970ies, Mr Reagan was against the Briggs bill intent to ban homosexual teachers from working in schools. By the way, one of the conservative principles is defending the weaker ones. Which the minorities always are.

Still, most right wing parties are against same sex marriage.

Most of Europe’s right wing parties have long ago arrived at the conclusion that at least civil partnership is necessary, in a free and tolerant society. True, many are against same sex marriage, more specifically making traditional marriage and registered same sex couples equal. That’s because of the Christian tradition saying marriage between man and woman is one of the sacraments. This is true with both Catholic and Orthodox tradition, a bit different with Lutherans. Important here that, as I don’t think the state could tell people who they may legally live together, the state can’t prescribe to the church how it must view marriage. As I respect integrity of private lives, I also honour the convictions of church and believers to follow their traditions. In that sense I do not think we should start legalising Church weddings for same sex couples, thus violating the feelings of many. Still, same sex couples should have the same options for secular cohabitation as others. Tolerance like that, I think, also goes with the Christian world view.

Critics say legalising civil partnership will weaken the institution of marriage.

This I totally do not understand. By providing the same sex couples objectively dwelling among us the chance to get registered, how will that affect the marriage of me or you? Or the desire of me or you to get married? Right now, about 60 percent of children in Estonia are born outside marriage. That’s the highest percentage in EU, much higher than in the countries allowing homosexual marriages for years. The unpopularity of traditional marriage comes from lots of developments in the society, the changed roles of the sexes, the changed career models of males and females, the mobile lifestyle etc. Marriage and lasting relationships thrive where life is good and peaceful I don’t understand how discrimination can make anybody happier.

Regrettably, Estonia is a homophobic society and many cannot live with the knowledge that, in their apartment house, two doors down, there dwells a homosexual couple. Law won’t change that.

The Estonian society has learnt to be careful towards the new. Even good things aren’t praised. Sure, for many in Estonia homosexuality still  strange, an uncomfortable topic, one rather not touched. I think it’s because of some historic-psychological reasons. During the Soviet occupation, homosexuality was a criminal offence. In totalitarian societies, homophobia is usually the norm.

Maybe it’s too early to deal with this, in Estonia, seeing the society is not ripe yet?

Never too early to increase tolerance. Today, the whole world links homophobia with Vladimir Putin’s autocracy and aggression. From that heritage, Estonia needs to set itself mentally free. Lately, World Social Progress Index was compiled by the team of Michael Porter, listing states according to social progress. Estonia is 22nd, proudly. The best position in Eastern Europe. At a closer look, though, there is an area where Estonia is a lot lower than Mongolia and Namibia, for instance, and just a couple of notches above Saudi Arabia. That’s tolerance and inclusiveness. Here, Estonia comes 66th. Not too early, I think, to start moving ahead here.

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