In response to growing rates of unmarried cohabitation, a bill is being prepared for the Riigikogu (Estonian parliament), which, if passed, would allow couples to formalise their relationship through civil partnership, regardless of gender. The bill seems very likely to succeed, having already gained the support of MPs from all four major parties, including a minority from the most conservative of these, the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union. There is no talk of it leading to anything like the UK’s Equal Marriage Bill. (Even if we were to assume that a marriage equality bill could provide full equality, what we have in the UK is not truly ‘equal’ as it does not accommodate transgender couples.) According to Gay Star News: “it seems unlikely that the bill will create adoption rights for same-sex couples in Estonia as this is strongly opposed by government coalition member party the Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica, whose leadership are opposed to same-sex partnerships being recognised.”
The truth is, for many of us, that same-sex marriages and civil partnerships are our very smallest concerns. It is such a small step, which offers some extended property rights and perhaps more tolerance, but little else. Anyone who doesn’t buy into the fantasy of “gay affluence” knows this. Far more urgent problems specifically affecting LGBT people include unemployment, homelessness, censorship, and violence at the hands of fascist gangs in collusion with the state. Being so close to Russia and Lithuania, Estonians must feel a particular urgency against the violence and censorship of “gay propaganda”.
From June 2nd to 8th, the annual Baltic Pride festival will be held in Estonia’s capital, Tallinn.
It is likely that this will be a betterindicator of public opinion on sexuality than the civil partnership law. Homophobic protesters fromthe conservative Pro Patria and Res Publica Union should be expected, as well as from the small but visible far-right Estonian Independence Party, which uses white supremacist symbolism and has ties to neo-Nazis who annually display support for the Estonian Waffen SS.
We cannot rely on a change in the law to destroy institutional sexism and people’s commonly held prejudices, when lawmakers have historically sought so much to divide and conquer the working class along lines of sexuality and gender. Our goal as socialists is queer liberation, and those kinds of discussions will appear in Baltic Pride, not in parliament. We must find some way to show solidarity with this campaign.