President Toomas Hendrik Ilves signed the Civil Partnership Act into law after parliamentarians earlier in the day approved the measure by a 40-38 vote margin. The Associated Press reported 23 lawmakers either abstained or did not attend the vote.
“The founding document of a democratic Estonia — our constitution — stipulates the equal treatment of all people,” said Ilves in a statement his office released shortly after he signed the measure. “Estonian society will not endure intolerance towards its own people.”
“The Civil Partnership Act is another step closer to a more tolerant and socially inclusive society,” said Imre Sooäär, the parliamentarian who sponsored the measure, in a press release the Estonian Human Rights Centre issued. “I am extremely thankful to my colleagues who supported the bill.”
Kari Käsper, executive director of the Estonian Human Rights Centre, also welcomed the bill’s passage.
“By passing this law, Estonia made a leap towards a society that is more free, more equal and values human rights for all,” said Käsper.
The law will take effect in the European Union country in 2016.
Anti-LGBT attitudes persist in Estonia in spite of the former Soviet republic’s proximity to Finland and other Scandinavian nations.
Neighboring Russia continues to face criticism over its LGBT rights record, which includes a 2013 law banning so-called propaganda to minors. The country last week announced its withdrawal from an American exchange program after it accused a gay Michigan couple of persuading a Russian teenager to see asylum in the U.S.
Lawmakers in Kyrgyzstan this week began to debate a proposal similar to Russia’s gay propaganda law that Radio Free Europe said would punish those found guilty of promoting “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” with up to a year in jail. The Lithuanian Parliament in March postponed a final vote on a bill that seeks to fine those who denigrate the “constitutional value of family life.”
Ukrainian LGBT rights advocates in July cancelled a march that had been scheduled to take place in Kiev, the country’s capital, because local police refused to protect them.
Bogdan Globa, a Ukrainian advocate, told the Washington Blade during a June interview in D.C. that members of a pro-Russian paramilitary group earlier this year attacked revelers at a gay club in the war-torn city of Donetsk. He said the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic has also banned gay propaganda to minors.