In a historic decision, the parliament of Latvia has officially legalized same-sex civil partnerships. The vote, which took place last week, October 9th, marks the first time in Latvian history that legal recognition is granted to same-sex couples.
Under the newly approved legislation, couples entering civil unions can register their partnerships, gaining access to essential rights such as hospital visitation, as well as tax and social security benefits. This move represents a significant shift in Latvia’s stance towards LGBTQ+ individuals, overturning a 2005 constitutional amendment that defined marriage exclusively as between a man and a woman. The new law is expected to be implemented by mid-2024.
“This is a great beginning… Latvia is not one of the six countries in the European Union that have no recognition for same-sex couples,” Kaspars Zalitis, a gay rights activist, tells Reuters.
However, it’s important to note that despite this progressive step, same-sex couples in Latvia will still face limitations, as they won’t be permitted to adopt children, and challenges related to inheritance may persist.
Justice Minister Inese Libina-Egnere clarified that the parliament’s intention is not to grant civil union partners identical rights to those of married couples.
“We are acknowledging that we have families which are not married, and this is the way they can register their relationship,” she explained to Reuters. “The political will is to have a really specific kind of registered partnership.”
In 2020, Latvia’s highest court mandated the recognition of non-married families, and as a result, 46 same-sex couples successfully sought legal recognition as family units, as reported by public broadcaster LSM.
It’s worth noting that Estonia, Latvia’s neighboring country, legalized same-sex marriage in June.
In a noteworthy development earlier this year, Latvian President Edgars Rinkevics, who was elected by the parliament, achieved a historic milestone as the first openly gay head of state in the country. For more information on this story, read here.