The Riigikogu endorsed a proposal by the Chancellor of Justice to amend the Aliens Act to grant an Estonian residence permit to same-sex partners of Estonian nationals.
The Chancellor of Justice proposed to bring the Aliens Act into conformity with the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia in order to ensure that same-sex registered couples are treated equally with married couples. 42 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the proposal, 19 were against, and there were three abstentions.
Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise referred to the fact that the Aliens Act gives individuals the right to apply for a residence permit to settle with the spouse who resides in Estonia. However, a residence permit cannot be issued for settling with a same-sex partner. Equal treatment of individuals in partnerships is required under both the Constitution of Estonia and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms which Estonia has undertaken to comply with. As it is impossible for same-sex partners to get married in Estonia, differently from different-sex spouses, it is impossible for them to take steps to comply with the conditions for receiving a residence permit to settle with their partner, as provided for in the Aliens Act. As same-sex and different-sex partnerships are, thus, in legally different situations, the current legislation has a discriminatory effect.
“One option to eliminate this unconstitutional situation would be to provide that a residence permit for setting in Estonia can be granted to the registered partner,” said Madise.
Today, we have a situation where an EU citizen residing in Estonia can, under the Citizen of European Union Act, bring his or her same-sex registered partner who is a third country national or a stateless person to Estonia for the purpose of cohabitation.
Such a situation, unconstitutionally, places Estonian citizens residing in Estonia at a disadvantage compared to citizens of other EU Member States residing in Estonia. This is not in conformity with the Estonian Constitution.
The Chancellor of Justice stressed that a potential legislative amendment should leave it up to Estonia to assess the nature of a partnership, similarly to the assessments of marriages of convenience and ostensible partnerships.
Member of the Constitutional Committee Andres Anvelt gave an overview of the discussions that had been held in the Committee where various aspects of and requirements for granting residence permits had been discussed thoroughly.
With 3 votes in favour, 2 against and 1 abstention, the Constitutional Committee had decided to endorse the proposal of the Chancellor of Justice.
Member of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction Martin Helme, who took the floor during the debate, stated that the faction did not support the proposal by the Chancellor of Justice. Member of the Reform Party Faction Valdo Randpere expressed support to the proposal and referred to the position of the Chancellor of Justice that the situation constitutes an infringement of the Constitution in the legal system. Member of the Social Democratic Party Faction Heljo Pikhof also noted that the infringement of the Constitution needed to be changed in order to put an end to discrimination. She also referred to the consensual decision of the Legal Affairs Committee to endorse the proposal of the Chancellor of Justice. Member of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction Ken-Marti Vaher did not however see any conflict with the Constitution and therefore did not support the proposal of the Chancellor of Justice. Representative of the Free Party Faction Jüri Adams shared the abovementioned position.
As the Riigikogu endorsed the proposal of the Chancellor of Justice, a proposal was made to the Constitutional Committee to initiate a relevant legislative amendment.
The first reading of the Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Amendment of the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Formation of the Riigikogu Committee of Investigation to Investigate the Possible Corruption that Occurred in the Management of Port of Tallinn Ltd and the Measures Necessary to Prevent Such Incidents in the Future”” (194 OE), submitted by the Riigikogu committee of investigation to identify possible corruption risks in Port of Tallinn Ltd, was concluded. The deadline for submission of motions to amend is 7 April.
The Draft Resolution provides for extension of the deadline for the completion of the Committee’s work until the end of the spring session on 16 June 2016, in order that the Committee could ascertain, with due care, all issues posed to the committee of investigation by the Resolution of the Riigikogu, and draw the respective conclusions and make relevant proposals to the Riigikogu and the Government of the Republic.
The Riigikogu rejected at the first reading the Bill on Amendments to the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act (178 SE), initiated by the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction, that sought to make the current recording of the sittings of the committees of the Riigikogu compulsory.
Member of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction Henn Põlluaas, member of the Free Party Faction Krista Aru and member of the Centre Party Faction Peeter Ernits took the floor during the debate. The Constitutional Committee moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. The result of voting: 46 in favour, 26 against. The Bill was dropped from the proceedings.
The sitting ended at 1.17 p.m.
Verbatim record of the sitting: http://stenogrammid.riigikogu.ee/et/201604051000
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu
(Note! The recording will be uploaded with a delay).
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