Estonia has given Putin’s spreading regional homophobia the finger by becoming the first former Soviet state to legally recognise gay relationships.
On Thursday, members of the country’s parliament voted 40-38 to approve a bill allowing all couples – including gay and lesbian couples – to register their relationships as civil unions.
The Civil Partnership Act, which has been the subject of much controversy, grants same-sex couples similar rights and responsibilities to those of heterosexual married couples. The law will come into effect on January 1, 2016.
With a population of 1.3 million, Estonia was part of the Russian-led Soviet empire until it declared its independence in 1991. With a population of just 1.3 million people, it is now a member of the European Union and of Nato.
“By passing this law, Estonia made a leap towards a society that is more free, more equal and values human rights for all,” said Kari Käsper, Head of the Estonian Human Rights Centre.
“The thousands of individuals who each in their own courageous way spoke out and took a stand for human rights and equality are an inspiration not only to everyone in Estonia but to other peoples and states in the region,” he explained.
The country’s move bucks the trend of some countries in the region emulating Russia’s anti-gay policies. In Kyrgyzstan, another former soviet nation, lawmakers are considering a “gay propaganda” law similar to that signed by President Putin in June last year.