Members of the parliament in Latvia voted yesterday, November 9, in favour of legislation that would allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions for the first time in the country’s history.
The recently approved legislation will allow same-sex couples to register their partnerships with the government, as well as allow them to avail of hospital visitation rights and some tax and social security benefits. However, same-sex couples will still be unable to adopt children and continue to face inheritance issues under the new legislation, which is slated for rollout in mid-2024.
“This is a good day. Society has taken an important step in creating a modern and humane Latvia,” said Evika Siliņa, the Latvian Prime Minister, on X, adding that the legislation “sends the signal that all families are important.”
Šī ir laba diena. Sabiedrība spērusi nozīmīgu soli, veidojot modernu un cilvēcīgu Latviju. Saeimai atbalstot reģistrētās partnerības ieviešanu, valsts izpildījusi savas tiesiskās saistības, un devusi skaidru signālu, ka svarīgas ir visas ģimenes. Paldies par saprātīgo balsojumu!
— Evika Siliņa 🇱🇻🇺🇦 (@EvikaSilina) November 9, 2023
The legalisation of same-sex civil unions comes just months after Latvia swore in its first-ever openly gay president, Edgars Rinkēvičs. Prior to being elected as the president of Latvia, Rinkēvičs spent more than a decade serving as the country’s foreign minister. The position made Rinkēvičs the first openly gay head of state in the EU.
Despite the seeming victories for the LGBTQ+ community in Latvia, public opinion surrounding LGBTQ+ rights and issues remains contentious. Latvian market researcher SKDS conducted a survey in 2022 designed to gauge public opinion towards the queer community in the Baltic nation. The results of the survey showed that 25% of Latvians surveyed supported the LGBTQ+ community, while 49% identified as neutral, and 23% condemned homosexuality in the nation.
Over the last 20 years, the country has had an up-and-down relationship with legalising same-sex marriage. In 2005, the Latvian parliament voted to amend its constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. This decision was followed by the Lativian High Court’s 2020 decision to grant unmarried couples recognition by the state.
The latest decision from the Latvian parliament comes just months after the country’s Baltic neighbour, Estonia, legalised same-sex marriage. Same-sex couples have been able to enter into civil unions in Estonia since 2016.
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