At Tuesday’s sitting of the Riigikogu, the Same-Sex Partnership Bill (151 SE), initiated by members of the Riigikogu Ain Lutsepp, Andres Ammas, Andres Herkel, Artur Talvik, Jüri Adams, Kersti Sarapuu, Krista Aru, Külliki Kübarsepp, Marika Tuus-Laul and Peeter Ernits, passed the first reading. The Bill is intended to replace the Registered Partnership Act that was passed by the 12th Riigikogu on 9 October 2014, and the Registered Partnership Act Implementation Bill (114 SE).
For the purposes of this Act, same-sex partnership is two adult persons of the same sex who have entered into a same-sex partnership agreement among themselves under the conditions of the Act. With a same-sex partnership agreement within the meaning of the Bill, a proprietary relationship agreement is concluded, a mutual obligation to provide maintenance is assumed, and the persons who enter into an agreement acquire the status of a first order successor with respect to each other. In addition to that, an agreement can contain other agreements, provided that they are not contrary to Acts or good morals. The Bill also provides for the principles for jointly raising children, the conditions for termination of an agreement, and the data to be entered in the state registers. The Bill provides for the repeal of the Registered Partnership Act.
In the opinion of Jüri Adams who presented the Bill, the worst consequence of the Registered Partnership Act is that the events of 2014 had a dividing effect on the Estonian society. Adams mentioned the positive qualities of the Bill. “First, it discusses one issue, and does not confuse various issues. Second, it discusses the issue very clearly, namely it provides the standard terms of a mutual agreement between a same-sex couple. Third, it is as brief as possible,” Adams said.
Member of the Legal Affairs Committee Valdo Randpere explained the specifications of the Registered Partnership Act and the Same-Sex Partnership Act. “The Registered Partnership Act is intended for persons who cannot or do not wish to get married. The Same-Sex Partnership Act is intended only for those who cannot get married,” Randpere said, and he supported the Registered Partnership Act in his speech.
“The Same-Sex Partnership Bill could remain in the proceedings so that the Legal Affairs Committee could, having a closer look at it, transpose some things into the implementing provisions of the Registered Partnership Act from there, or submit motions to amend the Registered Partnership Act,” Randpere said.
Andres Herkel, who took the floor on behalf of the Free Party Faction in the debate, justified the need for the Same-Sex Partnership Act and criticised the Registered Partnership Act. “The including of the regulation concerning different-sex couples and same-sex couples in one Act is the basis of very many conceptual confusions,” Herkel said.
In the opinion of Martin Helme, who took the floor on behalf of the Conservative People’s Party Faction, there is no need for a separate Act to deal with the problems of a minority. On behalf of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction, Helme moved to reject the Bill at the first reading.
The result of voting: 14 in favour, 55 against, and one abstention; thus, the motion was not supported.
The deadline for motions to amend is 2 March at 5 p.m.
The Riigikogu passed two Acts:
The Riigikogu approved with 85 votes in favour (1 abstention) the Act on Amendments to the Family Law Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (112 SE), initiated by the Government, which ensures smooth implementation of the Rome III Regulation. The Regulation applies if a divorce has connection with the law of more than one country. The Regulation harmonises the provisions concerning the law applicable to divorce and legal separation, gives spouses a possibility to choose the law applicable to their divorce or legal separation from among limited criteria, and determines the rules of the law applicable in the absence of the spouses’ choice.
Application of the Rome III Regulation gives spouses the possibility to agree at a notary at any time which country’s law must be applied to the prerequisites of their divorce. At present, spouses do not have such possibility. In the future, spouses will be able to choose either the law of the forum, the law of the State where the spouses are resident, the law of the State of nationality of either spouse, or the law of the State where the spouses were last resident, in so far as one of them still resides there. After the accession to the Regulation, Estonian courts and notaries will be able to apply the law of another state also to third country nationals.
The Riigikogu approved with 89 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Law of Succession Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (113 SE), initiated by the Government, which ensures smooth implementation of the European Union Regulation on succession matters. The Regulation establishes at European Union level harmonised procedural rules for the resolution of international succession matters. The Regulation does not cover Great Britain, Ireland and Denmark.
The Regulation regulates which law is applicable to a matter of succession and in which Member State it must be settled. Also, the circulation of succession documents in the European Union is simplified, and the European Certificate of Succession is created as a new document that gives the citizens an additional possibility to certify their rights in another Member State more simply.
The Act grants notaries an additional competence to settle successions with cross-border implications. As a general rule, a matter of succession has to be settled in the state of the usual place of stay of the bequeather, but in addition to that, additional grounds are provided for in the Regulation. The circulation of succession documents in the European Union is simplified, insofar as the Regulation establishes uniform rules concerning the recognition, enforceability and enforcement of court decisions, and the acceptance and enforceability of official documents and judicial agreements.
The Riigikogu concluded the second reading of one Bill:
The Bill on Amendments to the Identity Documents Act (55 SE), initiated by members of the Riigikogu Andres Ammas, Henn Põlluaas, Jaak Aaviksoo, Kristjan Kõljalg, Mihhail Stalnuhhin and Tanel Talve, which will extend the maximum period of validity of the Estonian citizen’s passport and an alien’s passport from five years to ten years. The aim is to reduce the expenses and frequency of acts connected with the issuing of passports.
The Chairman of the Constitutional Committee Kalle Laanet explained the changing of the requirement of submission of a photo upon application for an identity document. “Since, in practice, problems have arisen with applicants who cannot submit a photo meeting the requirements due to their state of health, for example, people with congenital disability or people in hospital under a drip, the requirements for a photo will be omitted from the Act with a motion to amend. The Bill provides that an applicant need not provide his or her photo if the facial image of the applicant is taken upon submission of the application,” Laanet said. He added that the requirements for a photo to be submitted upon application for the issue of a document will be established by a regulation of the minister responsible for the field.
The plenary of the Riigikogu supported the five motions to amend that had been submitted. In addition to amending the provisions relating to the requirements for a photo, the Constitutional Committee also decided to amend the provisions of the Identity Documents Act relating to fingerprinting. According to a motion to amend, a diplomatic passport will be issued to the Chancellor of Justice for seven years, but not for longer than until the termination of his or her authority. Also, the period of validity of diplomatic passports issued will be extended from three years to five years, because the assignments of persons to whom a diplomatic passport is issued generally last from four to five years. According to a motion to amend, the Act will enter into force on 1 January 2017.
Mihkel Raud who took the floor during the debate was glad that the Bill would solve the human dignity problem of some individuals, having in mind the application for an identity document by severely ill persons.
The Riigikogu concluded the first reading of one Bill:
The Bill on Amendments to the Bar Association Act (164 SE), initiated by the Government, is intended to ensure efficient and sustainable functioning of the Estonian Bar Association. The Bar Association Act needs to be amended because, in view of the growth of the number of membership of the Bar Association, the current regulations of the Act have become outdated and do not allow the organisation to act with the necessary efficiency.
The Minister of Justice Urmas Reinsalu said that the part of the Bar Association Act that concerns the organisational structure of the Bar Association needs to be reviewed so that it would better meet the changed needs, taking into account the further organisational development of the Bar Association. “The current regulation should also be amended by adding the possibility to better link retired lawyers with the organisation, and the regulations concerning the acceptance into membership also need organisation, as the bases for granting the right to act as an associate member of the Estonian Bar Association are ambiguous in the law which is currently in force,” Reinsalu said.
The Riigikogu rejected a Bill at the first reading:
The Bill on the Repeal of the Registered Partnership Act (149 SE), initiated by members of the Riigikogu Dmitri Dmitrijev, Erki Savisaar, Jaanus Karilaid, Mart Helme, Martin Helme, Märt Sults, Olga Ivanova, Peeter Ernits, Raivo Põldaru, Siret Kotka, Uno Kaskpeit and Vladimir Velman, the aim of which was to repeal the content and aims of the Registered Partnership Act.
In the opinion of Jaanus Karilaid who presented the Bill, the society had been divided, instead of being consolidated, when the Registered Partnership Act had been adopted. “The previous Riigikogu lacked the necessary number of votes to pass the Act correctly which necessitated the implementation of the Act with a separate Act in the current Riigikogu. The adoption of the implementing provisions has also got stuck, and those who voted in favour of the adoption of the Act back then are now no longer willing to carry through their legislative work,” Karilaid said. He added that such a bad legislative practice and indeterminacy may bring several court decisions and costs for the taxpayer.
Member of the Legal Affairs Committee Mark Soosaar said that, at the voting in the Committee, four members of the Committee had been in favour of the Bill, five had been against and there had been two abstentions. Thus the Bill had not been supported, and the Legal Affairs Committee moved to reject the Bill at the first reading.
Mihkel Raud, who took the floor on behalf of the Social Democratic Party Faction in the debate, said that the Registered Partnership Act had created certain rights and legitimate expectations for many people of Estonia, and he warned that this Bill was intended to take them away.
Jaak Madison, who took the floor on behalf of the Conservative People’s Party Faction, supported the Bill.
Viktoria Ladõnskaja, who took the floor on behalf of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction, said that the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union did not support the Registered Partnership Act or its implementing acts.
Jaanus Karilaid, who took the floor on behalf of the Centre Party Faction, called on to support the Bill.
At the voting, 41 members of the Riigikogu were in favour of the rejection of the Bill and 39 were against.
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu
(NB! The recording will be uploaded with a delay.)
Riigikogu Press Service
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