Latvia’s parliament has narrowly voted to allow same-sex civil partnerships.
The measure allows same-sex couples to register a civil partnership before a notary beginning in July 2024.
Same-sex couples will not have the same rights as heterosexual married couples. They will be unable to adopt children, and have fewer inheritance rights.
However, they will have hospital visiting rights, and some recognition as a couple in tax and social security matters.
Same-sex couples would still not be able to adopt children and would continue to face inheritance issues.
The Saeima, Latvia’s legislature, approved the measure after a sometimes heated debate.
Since 2005, Latvia’s constitution states marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman.
In one measure of acceptance of same-sex relationships, Rainbow Europe-rating placed the Baltic state in 37th place, just ahead of Poland, Romania and Bulgaria.
However, in May Latvia’s parliament chose President Edgars Rinkevics, a former foreign minister, as the EU’s first openly gay head of state.
The parliament did not intend to provide civil union partners with similar rights to married couples, says justice minister Inese Libina-Egnere.
“The political will is to have a really specific kind of registered partnership,” she says.
“We are acknowledging that we have families which are not married, and this is the way they can register their relationship,” she told Reuters.
In the evening’s debate, opposition parties called civil partnerships “marriage plagiarism”, a “marriage reproduction”, a “marriage clone”, and an attempt to circumvent the constitution.
Opponents want the bill to be suspended before it goes into effect so they can gather signatures for a referendum.
To suspend the statute requires support from 34 of the 100 MPs is needed, while a referendum requires the signatures of one-tenth of the electorate within two months.