Latvian lawmakers again reject legalizing same sex partnerships

The Latvian parliament or Saeima on October 29 rejected a citizen initiative proposal that would allow registration of civil partnership between two persons regardless of their gender.

The 100-member legislature, following an at times heated debate, voted against moving the proposal along as a draft law by a vote of 55 to 30, with one deputy abstaining and several others absent or not voting at the on-line session of the Saeima. The proposed law was supported by 10 392 signatures on ManaBalss.lv (My Voice) an online citizen initiative platform that presents most proposals with at least 10 000 signatures to the parliament.

The rejection of a proposed law that would effectively legalize and protect same-sex relationships as well as fix the rights and responsibilities of unmarried heterosexual couples living as a household was the sixth time the issue has been brought up and dismissed the Saeima since 1999.

Young human rights activists and supporters of LGBT rights have staged socially distanced demonstrations by dozens of people at every Saeima plenary session for several weeks to support the partnership or “iife partner”/”Dzivesbiedru” law.

Inese Voika, a parliamentarian from the liberal For Development/For (APar) faction, which supports same sex partnership its program, asked the parliament not to yet again “become a bastion of ignorance and fear.”

Independent deputy Julija Stepanenko, who in the past supported measures to enforce the teaching of “virtue” in the school system and to avoid positive mention of LGBT issues, said there was no need to give special treatment to same sex couples, who could live together and love each other regardless.

Anti-gay rant by former Prime Minister designate

“Civilization has understood that the best way to reproduce itself and develop is only through a family where there is a mother, child and father,” she said.

Aldis Gobzems, another independent deputy in what could be described as an LGBT hostile rant, said the proposed law “was all about gays.” “I have a question for all gays, what would happen to society if everyone was gay?,” he said and went on to claim the Roman Empire had been undone by gays. Almost two years ago, Gobzems was nominated as Prime Minister to form a Latvian government but failed. His populist political party, Who Owns the State? (KPV) did end up in the current coalition, but he left the party after internal feuds. He become a borderline covid-19 denier who refuses to wear a mask in grocery stores.

Long term LGBT rights activist and founder of Latvia’s LGBT organization Mozaika, Linda Freimane said that she was cautiously optimistic after the negative Saeima vote. “The thinking of society is changing and we need only to switch over a few votes,” she said. Local media reported that a recent survey showed almost 63 percent of Latvians supported a legal basis for same-sex partnership.

LGBT activists and partnership advocates see some progress

Freimane was one of the organizers of Latvia’ s first gay pride parade in 2005

which was also the year that Latvia amended its constitution to specify that marriage could only be sealed between a man and a woman. The amendment was inspired and supported by Ainars Slesers a religiously conservative party leader and government minister at the time, who has since left politics and whose party has dissolved.

Freimane noted that most EU countries had recognized the rights of same sex partners and such predominantly Catholic countries as Portugal, Spain, Ireland and Malta “went straight to same-sex marriage without any intermediate legal partnership arrangement.”

Kaspars Zalitis, the head of the organization Dzīvesbiedri (Life Partners) which has supported the initiative, said that the vote “was to be expected” but he was pleased that “the side supporting LGBT rights” got seven more votes, for a total of 30, than the last time the issue was for the Saeima and 23 deputies voted against rejecting the proposal.

Latvia ranks among the lowest in the European Union in terms of respecting LGBT rights, ahead only of Poland with its semi-official “LGBT-free” cities and towns and open government hostility toward LGBT persons and organizations.

The Dzīvesbiedri organization has also asked the citizen initiative platform ManaBalss.lv to keep the partnership law proposal open for more signatures in an effort to get at least 20 000 signatures by November 18, Latvia’s national independence day.

Supporters of the partnership law also stress the need to protect heterosexual couples in stable, long-term relationships, pointing to the case of a woman who had no rights after partner, a fireman, was among 51 people killed in the 2013 collapse of a department store in Riga.

The law would also cover the rights of children of same sex couples. enabling the non-biological parent to have rights to look after a child.

A freelance journalist based in Riga, Latvia who has covered the country and region for 20 years. Speak native Latvian and English, fluent Swedish and German.

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