Latvia cements homophobia in the constitution

15/12/2005

Today the Latvian parliament adopted a constitutional amendment in the third and final reading to define marriage as a union of a man and a woman to prevent any possibility for same-sex marriage.

The constitutional amendment was proposed earlier this year by the First Party of Latvia which stirred a hysterical homophobic campaign following the first lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Pride March last July in Riga. The constitution now explicitly defines marriage as a union of a man and a woman and the First Party openly stated their motivation for this amendment was to prevent Latvia from any legal recognition of same-sex partners.

Same-sex marriage is already explicitly banned in Latvia’s Civil Law since 1993. However the conservative politicians in Latvia put forward an argument that implementing the European Union’s (EU) anti-discrimination employment legislation might open an opportunity for same-sex partners to challenge the Civil Law’s ban on same-sex marriage and therefore the constitutional ban is needed.

Same-sex partners in Latvia are entirely ignored by the law and do not enjoy any of the rights and protections that married opposite sex partners do. Consequently they suffer discrimination and disadvantages in such areas as inheritance, property arrangement, tenancy, pensions, tax, and social security to name a few. In 1999, the Human Rights Committee of the Latvian Parliament rejected a proposal for registered partnership legislation for same-sex partners.

Patricia Prendiville, Executive Director of ILGA-Europe, said:

“We are appalled and seriously concerned with these homophobic developments in Latvia. As an EU member state, Latvia is acting disrespectfully to the principles of equality and non-discrimination agreed and confirmed by various EU treaties. Not only has Latvia now a discriminatory constitutional provision motivated solely by homophobia, but Latvia is still the only EU member state which did not ban sexual orientation discrimination in employment as required by the EU employment equality directive.

While Europe is moving towards being a continent of equal opportunities, inclusion and respect and while more countries provide protection against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and recognition of same-sex families, Latvia in contrast is moving towards discrimination, disrespect and marginalisation of LGBT people.

We call upon the European Union to scrutinise Latvia’s disregard and disrespect of EU principles and laws. We also call upon the Latvian authorities to comply with their European obligations and instead of institutionalising discrimination, to work towards ensuring respect and legal recognition of same-sex families.”

Ends

For more information please contact

Juris Lavrikovs at + 32 2 609 54 16 / + 32 496 708 375

Notes for editors:

(1) ILGA-Europe is the European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association and works towards equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people at European level.

(2) Amended Article 110 of the Latvian Constitution now reads: “The State protects and support marriage – a union between a man and a woman, family, rights of parents and children. The State provides special protection to disabled children, those children left without parents’ and children who suffered from violence.”

(3) Article 35.2 of the Latvia’s Civil Law explicitly prohibits marriage between persons of the same gender.

(4) Same-sex partners are legally recognised in following European countries: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and UK. Legal recognition of same-sex partnerships is currently being proposed or debated also in Liechtenstein and Ireland. Details on our website: www.ilga-europe.org/europe/issues/marriage_and_partnership/same_sex_marriage_and_partnership_country_by_country

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