Same-sex couples can now legally marry in Estonia, in a landmark moment for the Baltic states.
LGBTQ+ people in Estonia have been able to register civil unions since 2016, but the country became the first former Soviet republic to legalise same-sex marriage in June 2023 after a vote of 55 to 34 in the country’s 101-seat parliament.
The legislation officially came into force on New Year’s Day (1 January) and same-sex couples in the country can now register their marriage applications online.
It is believed the first applications will be processed and certified by early February.
Estonia’s minister of social protection, Signe Riisalo, said: “Laws provide clarity and influence our attitudes. I hope that unfounded fears will recede and that critics of this decision will realise that what is being taken away is not something that is being taken away, but something very important that is being added for many of us.”
Keio Soomelt, the project manager for the Baltic Pride festival, described the move as an “important” moment for Estonia.
“For the LGBT+ community, it is a very important message from the government that says, finally, we are as equal as other couples, that we are valuable and entitled to the same services and have the same options,” he said, according to The Guardian.
Also speaking to The Guardian, Marielle Tuum, a teacher from the capital, Tallinn, who will register her marriage to her German girlfriend in the spring, said: “Ten years ago, I didn’t see as many same-sex couples holding hands in public. People are more open now in Estonia.
“I’m really happy that I can do a proper wedding at home and not elsewhere, that has less meaning.”
After the vote in June, prime minister Kaja Kallas sent a message to other central European nations, saying: “It’s a difficult fight, but marriage and love is something that you have to promote.”
Writing on social media, she went on to say: “We’re building a society where everyone’s rights are respected and people can love freely.”