There is no danger that Christian civil servants in Estonia will soon be forced to register gay marriages. While one West European country after another is legalizing same-sex marriages, last Monday the Riigikogu, the Estonian Parliament, rejected a proposal to include same-sex marriage in the new marriage law. Väino Linde, the chairman of the judiciary committee of the Riigikogu and a member of the governing Center Party, said there is no need to legalize the partnership of homosexuals because Estonian laws allow gays to regulate their relationships in other ways.
Mr Linde also stressed that legislators should respect the views of the people. A large majority of Estonians oppose same-sex marriage. Close to 60% of the people do not approve of gay marriage and about 70% opposes allowing adoption by same-sex couples. A survey taken by the Estonian free-market website Syndicate of Common Sense found that 81% of its readers objected to gay marriage.
Last week gay lobbies had called on the Riigikogu, the government and the ombudsman to legalize same-sex marriages. A proposed amendment in the new family law, however, explicitly defines marriage as a union “between one man and one woman.” The new law also declares void same-sex marriages registered outside Estonia, in countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain where gays are allowed to marry.
Estonian gay activists first came out in public in August 2004, when they organized a “pride parade” in the capital Tallinn. There were about 1,000 participants in the parade but many of them were foreigners who had flown in to show their solidarity. There was a second parade in 2005. Year by year the activists grow more vocal. As in the West, the Estonian mainstream media are rather sympathetic towards the gay cause. The so-called cultural elite has been busy trying to prove that they are open-minded, tolerant and progressive by participating in gay events. Conservative intellectuals in Estonia, however, see the acceptance of same-sex marriages as an indication of cultural suicide. They are glad that Estonia is showing less eagerness to commit cultural suicide than Western Europe. The “New Europe” is more in line with culturally conservative “red” America than the “Old Europe,” whose cultural values are the envy of the “blue” Americans.