The central European country of Estonia has become the first ex-Soviet state to legalise same-sex marriage, with the amendment going into effect from January 1, 2024. Jenny Southan reports

In another important step forward for LGBTQ+ rights, Estonia’s parliament passed a law on June 20 legalising same-sex marriage, making it the first ex-Soviet country to do so. (To learn more about “Put A Ring On It Trips”, download Globetrender’s free Future of Queer Travel trend report.)

The fellow Baltic states of Lithuania and Latvia appear likely to follow suit in the coming years. Ukrainian citizens are also pushing for equal marriage rights in a bid to further distance itself from Russia

According to a press statement, two adults will be able to marry “regardless of their gender” following parliament-approved amendments to the country’s Family Law Act. The change will go into effect from January 1, 2024.

The update will also mean that same-sex couples will be able to adopt children. (In Estonia, only married couples can adopt, although single gay, lesbian and bisexual people can petition to adopt.)

“Everyone should have the right to marry the person they love and want to commit to,” Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said. “With this decision we are finally stepping among other Nordic countries as well as all the rest of the democratic countries in the world where marriage equality has been granted.

“This is a decision that does not take anything away from anyone but gives something important to many,” she continued. “It also shows that our society is caring and respectful towards each other. I am proud of Estonia.”

Same-sex relationships have been legal in Estonia since 2016, when the Registered Partnership Act took effect, but arriage was only allowed to take place between people of the opposite sex.

A survey undertaken by the Estonian Human Rights Centre in April 2023 found that 53 per cent of the Estonians believe that “same-sex partners should have the right to marry each other.”

This is the highest percentage recorded since the survey began in 2012. At that time, 60 per cent of people surveyed were against marriage equality so sigificant progress has been made in improving public sentiment.

“I am genuinely very grateful for the patience and understanding the LGBT+ community has shown for all these years,” said Signe Riisalo, Estonia’s Minister of Social Protection.

“I hope that, in time, those opposed to marriage equality come to see that we don’t lose anything from taking such steps, but rather that we all gain from them,” Riisalo added. “I am delighted that the decision has now been taken for a more forward-looking Estonia that cares for all.