Same-sex couples in Estonia have cheered the country’s history-making same-sex marriage laws coming into effect on New Year’s Day.
Estonia’s parliament voted to approve the laws in June last year, making it the first Baltic, central European and ex-Soviet country to do so.
January 1 was the first day same-sex couples could submit their marriage applications online, with applications approved at least a month later.
Bride-to-be Marielle Tuum told The Guardian she’s planning to marry her girlfriend Annika in 2024.
“I’m really happy that I can do a proper wedding at home and not elsewhere, that has less meaning,” she said.
“Ten years ago, I didn’t see as many same-sex couples holding hands in public. People are more open now in Estonia.”
‘Finally, we are as equal as other couples’
Estonia has had same-sex civil unions since 2013. Those couples will have the ability to move to a legal marriage if they want.
Baltic Pride’s project manager Keio Soomelt and his husband plan to do so in 2024. Keio says marriage equality is “an important moment” for his country.
“For the LGBT+ community, it is a very important message from the government that says, finally, we are as equal as other couples,” he told The Guardian.
“[It says] that we are valuable and entitled to the same services and have the same options.”
Under the new laws, same-sex couples can also adopt children for the first time.
Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (pictured above) said last year the reform “does not take anything away from anyone but gives something important to many.”
“We join other Nordic nations with this historic decision,” she said.
“I’m proud of my country. We’re building a society where everyone’s rights are respected and people can love freely.”
Latvia votes to approve same-sex civil unions
While same-sex marriage is widespread among western European countries, in eastern and central Europe it’s a very different story.
Countries like Poland and Hungary have targeted LGBTQIA+ communities in recent years.
However, Latvia’s parliament voted in November to allow same-sex couples to establish civil unions.
The move legally recognises Latvian same-sex couples for the first time but falls short of the rights legally married couples get.
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