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The Constitutional Committee of the Riigikogu sent the draft resolution of the Riigikogu on a referendum on the Cohabitation Act to the sitting of the Riigikogu on 7 October, but did not support holding a referendum.

According to the Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “On Holding a Referendum on the Adoption of the Cohabitation Bill (650 SE), Initiated by the Members of the Riigikogu” (704 OE), initiated by the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction, a referendum on the Cohabitation Bill would be held on 1 March next year, at the same time with the elections of the Riigikogu. The Constitutional Committee supported conducting the first reading of the Draft Resolution on the 7 October sitting of the Riigikogu, when the second reading of the Cohabitation Bill (650 SE), initiated by 40 members of the Riigikogu, is on the agenda.

At the same time the Committee rejected the motion to combine the two draft legislations. Three members of the Committee voted for combining and six were against. Pursuant to the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act, the draft resolution on a referendum is deemed to have been rejected if the Riigikogu does not decide to combine the proceedings regarding the bill and the draft resolution.

“The Cohabitation Act is not on comparable level with other issues that have been put on the referendum until now,” the Chairman of the Constitutional Committee Rait Maruste said. He added that the state of Estonia should be inclusive, not dividing.

“If the Cohabitation Act were put on a referendum, then it would split the society with the force of the majority that would have the supreme legal power,” Maruste said. “Different forms of cohabitation are issues that, like all other issues of communal life, are discussed by the Riigikogu with the democratic mandate given by the people. The Cohabitation Act will solve deeply personal and private legal problems, and in principle it is not right to solve such issues with the supreme legislative power of a decision of the majority.”

According to the Constitution, the state has the obligation to protect the family. In the European cultural space, the definition of family is much wider than the marriage between a man and a woman, Maruste added.

In the opinion of the initiators of the draft resolution on holding a referendum, the Cohabitation Act that allows same sex couples to register their partnership would change the concept of family adopted by the society so much that a referendum should be held for making a decision on that Bill. Member of the Constitutional Committee Urmas Reinsalu remarked at the sitting of the Committee that it would be correct to decide the Cohabitation Bill after the elections of the Riigikogu, when the assessment of the people has been received.

The Cohabitation Bill gives cohabiting but not married couples the right to register their civil relationship and thus regulate their legal relations. The scope of application of the Cohabitation Bill involves the procedure for entering into a cohabitation agreement, the rights and responsibilities of registered civil partners, and the bases for terminating the cohabitation agreement.

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