Latvia: Ombudsman calls for same-sex couple legal protection
Ombudsman Juris Jansons [of Latvia] has invited the Saeima [Latvian Parliament] to introduce amendments in numerous legal acts, and approximate the legal protection of persons living in an unmarried cohabitation union (including cohabiting same-sex couples) to the legal protection of married couples – says the Ombudsman’s 2011 report.
In his report about partnerships, the Ombudsman also emphasizes that the majority of members of the specially created advisory council of experts has pointed out that in Latvia there is no need for separate legal regulation for cohabiting homosexual partnerships, which would in fact equate such partnerships to the protected institute of marriage as stipulated in Article 110 of Satversme [Latvian Constitution].
During the public discussions the Ombudsman heard different completely opposing views. From one side there was a call to support the institute of traditional marriage in such critical demographic situation, and create favorable conditions to promote a higher birthrate. The other side called for ensuring equal legal protection for everyone, for respecting the reality, and paying attention to the high number of unregistered cohabiting couples in Latvia.
The Office of the Ombudsman also calls for paying attention to the public survey conducted by the research center SKDS in 2011. The survey indicated that the majority of the Latvian society is against the recognition of homosexual relationships. When asked to define their attitude toward homosexual people and homosexual relationships, 23.2% stated that “both homosexual people and homosexual relationships are to be condemned.” 27.6% have said that they do not have any objections for homosexual people, but that homosexual relationships are to be condemned.
However, 30% have said that they do not condemn neither homosexual people nor homosexual relationships. 18.9% had no opinion.
The Ombudsman has concluded that the majority of the Latvian society is currently not ready to equate the registration of same-sex partnerships to the institute of marriage, and accept the recognition of homosexual relationships as a normal lifestyle. At the same time, noting that Article 89 of the Satversme says that the state recognizes and protects every person’s fundamental rights, also that Article 91 defines the principle of legal equality, and based on this reality, Mr. Jansons calls for ensuring of the legal protection of cohabiting unmarried persons, including cohabiting same-sex couples.
He also refers to fact that by joining the European Union (EU), Latvia has in some way limited its sovereign rights, and that the normative EU acts, which ban discrimination on the basis of gender-orientation or sexual orientation, are binding for Latvia. The European Human Rights Court has also in its 2010 court decision stated that there is a rising tendency in EU member states to include same-sex relationships in the concept of “family.”
According to the Ombudsman, amendments are necessary in such legal norms that refer to the legal protection of patients, especially in situations, when there is a need to make decisions about accepting or declining medical treatment or about choosing the treatment method, if the patient due to his or her health condition is unable to make such a decision.
It is also necessary to amend the law “On Prevention of Conflict of Interest in Activities of Public Officials.” There is also a need to change the procedural legal norms, especially concerning the right of not testifying. Amendments to person’s social rights are also being discussed. It is necessary to solve the issue of compensation in situations when an employee has not worked because of justifiable reasons, and of the benefits in a situation of death of a family member or a dependent, as well as of forgone pension and of paying the compensation for burial costs due to the death of a person receiving the pension.
Mr. Jansons also calls for resolving the issues of couples’ rights to information in the Law on Patient’s Rights.
Initially published by LETA (and Delfi.lv) on September 8, 2012: http://www.delfi.lv/news/national/politics/tiesibsargs-aicina-viendzimuma-paru-tiesisko-aizsardzibu-tuvinat-laulato-aizsardzibas-limenim.d?id=42655450); Translated into English by Skapis.eu