The legal affairs committee of the Estonian parliament at a sitting on Tuesday decided to send to first reading a bill that would enable marriage between two adults regardless of their sex, and that would provide for the adoption of the implementing provisions of the Registered Partnership Act.
Chairman of the legal affairs committee Eduard Odinets said that the bill is of great importance and it has been prepared with sufficient detail, adding that there was a thorough discussion of the draft legislation at Tuesday's sitting.
«The committee will hear the interest groups after first reading and the bill can be amended between first and second reading,» he said.
«Over the past ten years, support for marriage equality has greatly grown in the society,» Odinets said, adding that marriage equality also helps improve the protection of the rights of same-sex couples.
«Pursuant to the bill, in addition to marriage, the opportunity remains to enter into a registered partnership contract, and registered domestic partners will be able to transition into marriage in simplified procedure,» he added.
Deputy chair of the committee Anastassia Kovalenko-Kolvart, who voted against the motion to conclude first reading of the bill, underscored that the draft legislation provides for important changes, which is why it is important to include interest groups in the handling process and hear their positions.
«The bill on marriage equality was submitted to the Riigikogu on Monday evening and it was on the agenda of the legal affairs committee already this afternoon. Therefore, members of the committee had less than 24 hours to acquaint themselves with it. Interest groups have expressed their indignation as the submitter of the bill gave them three working days to go through the explanatory memorandum and provide an opinion. Therefore, it is important that the committee should include all interest groups and, if possible, also the constitutional committee,» she said.
At the start of the sitting, MPs of the opposition Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE) and Center Party proposed to exclude the bill from the committee's agenda for the sitting, claiming that the time for getting acquainted with the bill and its explanatory memorandum was insufficient for developing an opinion with the party group as the documents were not sent in until late on Monday evening.
The chairman of the committee affirmed that there was no conflict with the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act. Several MPs also said that the time for getting acquainted with the bill was sufficient, and that the initiator of the bill can also introduce the draft legislation at the sitting and members of the committee can ask questions about it. The proposal to exclude the bill from the agenda was not supported by the committee. As a sign of protest, MPs of the EKRE group decided to leave the sitting.
The bill would clarify the regulation of descent in the Family Law Act in relation to the adoption right of same-sex couples. With marriage equality, same-sex couples will gain the right to jointly adopt children and for one partner to adopt the children of their spouse with the consent of the child's biological parent.
The bill states the principle that a child cannot have any more than two parents. The principle that the rights and obligations related to the child lie primarily with the child's biological parents will be maintained. The mother's female spouse has a filiation relationship with the child if she consents to the mother's in vitro fertilization.
The bill also includes amendments enabling all the rights and obligations stemming from the Registered Partnership Act passed in 2014 to be fully implemented in practice.
Pursuant to the bill, the rights and obligations arising directly from the Registered Partnership Act remain unchanged compared to the current law, meaning that a registered partner can only adopt the child of their registered partner.
The bill was introduced to the committee by Minister of Social Protection Signe Riisalo.
The committee decided to send the government-initiated bill to first reading at the May 22 plenary sitting of the Riigikogu. The deadline for motions to amend the bill was set for June 5. If the bill is passed, it is intended to enter into force in its main part on Jan 1, 2024.