LGBT rights in Estonia

LGBT rights in Estonia

Location of  Estonia  (dark green)

 in Europe  (light green & dark grey)
 in the European Union  (light green)   [Legend]

Same-sex sexual activity legal? Decriminalized since 1992, age of consent equalized since 2001
Gender identity/expression Legal: Gender change is recognized by the law
Military service Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation and gender identity protections. (see below)
Family rights
Recognition of
Cohabitation Agreement since 1 January 2016
Adoption Step-child adoption only.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Estonia may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity are legal in Estonia. Since 1 January 2016, same-sex couples have recognition called a cohabitation agreement that gives the same legal protections available to opposite-sex couples (with the exemption of marriage and Joint adoption). It is considered to be, by most, the most liberal former-Soviet country when it comes to gay rights.

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity

Same-sex sexual activity, which was illegal in the Soviet Union, was legalised in Estonia in 1992. The age of consent is 14 years and was equalized for both homosexual and heterosexual sex in 2001.[1]

Recognition of same-sex relationships

In March 2014, parliamentary group began to work on a draft bill to regulate legal status of cohabiting couples.[2] The bill was submitted to the parliament on 17 April 2014. On 22 May, the bill was backed by the government.[3] On 19 June 2014, the parliament rejected the motion to kill the bill at the first reading, in a 32-45 vote.[4] The second reading took place on 8 October where a motion to place the bill on a referendum was defeated on a 35-42 vote and another motion to kill the bill was defeated on a 41-33 vote against scrapping the law.[5] The final vote took place on 9 October, passing the law in a 40-38 vote.[6] It was signed by President Toomas Hendrik Ilves that same day and took effect on 1 January 2016.[7]

Further legislation is needed for smooth implementation by 1 January 2016. On 26 November 2015, Parliament approved the first implementing acts on a vote of 42-41 with several abstentions.[8] The next reading of the acts is scheduled for the end of January 2016. 51 votes are required in the third and final reading to successfully implement the law.[9]

Adoption and family law

Single gay or lesbian persons may petition to adopt and same-sex couples are allowed to foster. Same-sex couples can't adopt because the law states that only a couple which are married can adopt, and same-sex marriages are currently not recognized in Estonia. However, due to the Cohabitation Agreement Act, couples are allowed to perform step-adoption, and lesbians can use IVF.

Discrimination protections

As an obligation for acceptance into the European Union, Estonia transposed an EU directive into its own laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment from 1 May 2004. The Law on Equal Treatment, which entered into force on 1 January 2009, prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in areas other than employment, such as health care, social security, education and the provision of goods and services.[10][11]

Since 2006, the Penal Code prohibits public incitement to hatred on the basis of sexual orientation.[10]

Living conditions

Homosexuality was illegal in the USSR, including Estonia, although the situation seemed to be more liberal in Estonia than in most other parts of the former Soviet Union. In the mid-1980s, there was an unofficial gay bar in Tallinn. There was also at least one cruising area in both Tallinn and Tartu.[12] But the gay scenes are unclear outside Tallinn and Tartu. The first conference dedicated to sexual minorities took place in Tallinn in 1990. At the same time, the Estonian Lesbian Society (Eesti Lesbiliit) was founded.[13]

Pride parades have been organised since 2004 in Tallinn.

In June 2006, Dutch Ambassador to Estonia Hans Glaubitz requested he be transferred to the Dutch consulate in Montreal, Canada after ongoing homophobic and racial verbal abuse being hurled against his partner, an Afro-Cuban dancer named Raúl García Lao, by citizens in the capital of Tallinn. A released statement by the Estonian authorities stated that they "regretted the incidents very much".[14]

From 6 June to 12 June 2011, Estonia hosted Baltic Pride, a festival to promote greater support and awareness for LGBT people. Key speakers at the event included Riho Rahuoja, the Deputy Secretary General for Social Policy at the Ministry of Social Affairs; Christian Veske, the Chief Specialist in the Ministry's Gender Equality Department; Kari Käsper, Project Manager of the "Diversity Enriches" campaign from the Estonian Human Rights Centre; Hanna Kannelmäe from the Estonian Gay Youth NGO, U.S. Ambassador to Estonia Michael C. Polt, British Ambassador to Estonia Peter Carter and British photographer Clare B. Dimyon, who exhibited "Proud of our Identity" at Tallinn's Solaris Centre on 31 March. "Proud of our Identity" comprises photographs of and by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people taken at various Pride events throughout Europe, including photographs of Estonian LGBT people.[15]

Public opinion

A Eurobarometer survey published on December 2006 showed that 21% of Estonians surveyed support same-sex marriage and 14% recognise same-sex couple's right to adopt (EU-wide average 44% and 33%).[16]

A poll conducted in June 2009 showed that 32% of Estonians believe that same-sex couples should have the same legal rights as opposite-sex couples. Support was 40% among young people, but only 6% among older people.[17] And according to a survey conducted in 2000, 50% of surveyed men and 63% of women agreed with the statement “Homosexuality among adults is a private affair of the people concerned with which officials of the law should in no way interfere; 29% of men and 25% of women found it hard to say what their position was.[12]

From a Eurobarometer survey published in 2008, only 13 percent of Estonians profess to have homosexual friends or acquaintances, compared to a 34 percent average in the EU. However, Estonians ranked higher than the European average in willingness to grant equal opportunities to sexual minorities.[18]

A poll conducted in September 2012 found that 34% of Estonians supported same-sex marriage and 46% supported registered partnerships. The poll found an ethnic divide: while 51% of ethnic Estonians supported registered partnerships, only 35% of ethnic Russians were of the same view.[19]

Summary table

Same-sex sexual activity legal (Since 1992)
Equal age of consent (Since 2001)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only (Since 2004)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services (Since 2009)
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) (Since 2008)
Same-sex marriage
Recognition of same-sex couples (Since 2016)
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples (Since 2016)
Joint adoption by same-sex couples / (Couples where both partners are infertile may also adopt non-biological children)
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military
Right to change legal gender
Access to IVF for lesbians
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples (Illegal for heterosexual couples also)
Conversion therapy banned for minors
MSMs allowed to donate blood

See also


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