ILGA-Europe urges Latvian President and Parliament to support proposal for same-sex partnership legislation
Today, ILGA-Europe sent a letter addressed to Latvian President, Latvian Parliament and Latvian Ombudsperson urging them to support a proposal to introduced registered partnership for same-sex couples.
President of the Republic of Latvia
Parliament of the Republic of Latvia
Ombudsman of the Republic of Latvia
Your Excellency President Zalters,
Honourable Members of the Saeima,
Registered partnership for same-sex couples in Latvia
ILGA-Europe, the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, is delighted to learn that Mozaika, Latvian Alliance of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans People and Their Friends, announced a legislative proposal for a registered partnership for same-sex couples. We are encouraged by the statement of President Zalters, that this issue ‘needs to be debated’ and that ‘if such reality [same-sex couples] exists, it is a duty of the state to help them’.
We would like to ask you all to join us in supporting this important proposal. Same-sex partners are currently being discriminated against in Latvia as they have no legal option to formalise their relationships and obtain any property, inheritance, and social security rights and protections. It is true that Latvia does not recognise cohabiting different-sex partners either, however, unlike same-sex partners the marriage option is always available to them. Adopting a registered partnership law for same-sex partners will in no way undermine the Latvian Constitution provision defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. What it will do instead is creating a legal framework for same-sex partners who are currently left without any legal recognition and protections. The European experience clearly demonstrates that the existence of such constitutional provisions like the one that exists in Latvia is not an obstacle for the country to provide legal recognition for same-sex partners as demonstrated in Germany and Hungary – both countries define marriage as a union between a man and a woman and both countries have adopted registered partnership laws specifically for same-sex partners.
Additionally, the European Court of Human Rights had already ruled on a case against Poland that dealt with a similar constitutional provision prohibiting same-sex from access to marriage.
The Court ruled that while it accepted the protection of the family founded on a union of a man and a woman as provided in the Article 18 of the Polish Constitution, the State needs to strike a balance between such protection and the protections of the family and the Convention rights of sexual minorities. The Court pointed that the States had to take into considerations developments in society including the fact that there was not just one way of leading one’s private life.
The European Court of Human Rights acknowledged the evolution in Europe by noticing that “a rapid evolution of social attitudes towards same-sex couples had taken place in many member states and a considerable number of states had afforded them legal recognition” and that “a cohabiting same-sex couple living in a stable de facto partnership, falls within the notion of “family life”, just as the relationship of a different-sex couple in the same situation would.”
16 out of 27 Member States of the European Union have laws which recognise same-sex partnership in one form or another. Equality and anti-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation are well established principles of the European Union as confirmed in Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union states that “Any discrimination based on any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation shall be prohibited.”
The Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union, in its comprehensive research on discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the European Union, said that “international human rights law requires that same-sex couples either have access to an institution such as registered partnership which provides them with the same advantages as those they would be recognised if they had access to marriage.”
The Council of Europe also has taken a strong stance against such inequalities and discrimination. Just last year, the government of all 47 Member States (including Latvia) agreed on the recommendation on measures to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity which calls on member states to “ensure that legislative and other measures are adopted and effectively implemented to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity, to ensure respect for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and to promote tolerance towards them.”
We fully appreciate that the public debate on this issue could be challenging and even emotional, but we urge you, as social and opinion leaders, to take a leading role in directing this debates in the framework of principles of equality, dignity and human rights.
This is a historical chance for Latvia to join the most progressed of European countries which demonstrate their human rights commitment by taking practical steps and ensuring equal treatment, respect and dignity to all citizens regardless sexual orientation.
Executive Director of ILGA-Europe
Kozak v Poland, judgement of 2 March 2010, para 98
Schalk and Kopf v. Austria, judgement of 24 June 2010, para 94
 Homophobia and Discrimination on grounds of Sexual Orientation in the EU member states. Part I – Legal Analysis.