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Estonia Becomes the First Ex-Soviet State to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

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Estonia’s parliament approved same-sex marriage, overcoming opposition led by the far-right to make the Baltic nation the first former Soviet republic to legalize such partnerships.

Lawmakers approved the marriage-equality law after Prime Minister Kaja Kallas’s ruling coalition called a series of confidence votes to break a standoff with the opposition. The blockade was led by the ultranationalist EKRE party, which attacked the legislation as anathema to the traditional family model.

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President Alar Karis is expected to approve the legislation.

The nation of 1.3 million joins the bulk of western Europe in adopting same-sex marriage laws since the turn of the century. Eastern Europe has been slower in moving on LGBTQ rights, though civil unions are more common.

Slovenia last year became the first former eastern bloc country to introduce gay marriage, while other nations in the region such as Hungary and Russia have restricted LGBTQ rights.

As in many European countries and the US, Estonia’s acceptance of marriage equality has grown rapidly over the last decade. Some 53% of people support it, compared with 34% in 2021, according to a survey conducted in April by Turu-uuringute AS.

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The European Union member state approved same-sex civil unions in 2014, though the law has been in limbo as conservative lawmakers later blocked related legislation.

Some resistance also came from within Kallas’s center-right Reform Party, the winner of a parliamentary election in March that supported civil unions rather than gay marriage. But her new coalition partners — the liberal Estonia 200 and the Social Democrats — demanded full marriage equality as part of negotiations to form the government.

Progress was marked elsewhere in the Baltic region last month, when Latvia elected its long-time foreign minister, Edgars Rinkevics, as its president — the EU’s first openly gay head of state.

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