Latvia blocks same-sex marriage with contitution
Ross von Metzke | December 20, 2005
Latvian lawmakers blocked same-sex marriages by changing the Baltic state's constitution this week, infuriating gay rights activists who said they may take their case to the European Court of Human Rights.
Ex-Soviet Latvia, which joined the European Union last year, has tried to establish itself as a progressive democracy enjoying one of Europe's fastest growing economies. But many people retain conservative views about the family and gay rights.
"It is ridiculous that Latvia is sinking into a homophobic society when the rest of Europe is going the other way," said political analyst Karlis Streips, who is openly gay.
Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands have all legalized gay marriages in the last five years, while a British law permitting same-sex civil partnerships came into effect earlier this month.
Analysts said this week's amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman has effectively blocked the legal recognition of same-sex marriages in Latvia.
"Of course we will be called homophobes and worse," said Minister for Children and Family Affairs Ainars Bastiks. "But we are a democracy and we have a right to make our own decisions after discussions. For conservative societies, it shows that we can protect our values."
Latvia's parliament passed the amendment easily, with 65 votes for, six against and nine abstentions, a result that drew applause from some lawmakers.
"This is not against gays. It is supporting traditional families," said lawmaker Oskars Kastens of the First Party, a ruling-coalition party that proposed the amendment. �Looking at trends in Europe we are against liberalization of the idea of family. It is the same in both Lithuania and Poland."�
Latvian gay rights activists immediately denounced the �discriminatory decision,� saying it ran counter to a European trend toward recognizing same sex marriages.
"I think the decision in parliament today will add to the growing homophobia in today's society," said Maris Sants, a spokesman for gay rights group ILGA Latvia. �Our next step could be to go to the human rights court in Europe.� – Issued by Gay Link Content
Homosexual relationship registration bill dies in Latvian parliament [30/11/1999]