Latvia moves toward constitutional ban on same-sex marriage
September 16 2005 12:00 AM ET
parliament took a first step Thursday toward establishing a
constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, voting in favor of
sending the proposed amendment to a parliamentary
committee for review. Fifty-five lawmakers in the
100-seat Saeima, or parliament, voted in favor of
sending the proposed amendment for review, one voted
against, and 44 lawmakers either abstained or were absent.
If the committee approves the bill, it will go
back to the Saeima for a vote. To amend the
constitution, two thirds of the Saeima, or 67
lawmakers, would have to vote in favor. Same-sex marriage is
already banned under Latvian law, but proponents of
the bill say a constitutional amendment would
strengthen the ban in the face of greater acceptance of
same-sex unions in other European Union countries.
Inese Slesere, a First Party lawmaker, told the
Saeima that gay organizations were strongly defending
their rights in many European countries but that
same-sex unions should not be permitted in Latvia.
But after having been forced underground during
nearly five decades of Soviet occupation, which ended
in 1991, Latvia's gays lesbians have been struggling
to find a political voice and have made few public calls to
legalize same-sex marriage. About 50 Latvians marched in the
country's first-ever gay pride parade in July and were
flanked by hundreds of screaming protesters, some of
whom shouted insults and threw eggs.
Juris Lavrikovs, a Latvian in the European
branch of the International Lesbian and Gay
Association in Brussels, said next year's parliamentary
elections could be the biggest reason for the proposed
constitutional amendment. "The [gay pride] parade last
summer united the country's [ethnic] Latvians and
Russians," Lavrikovs said. "The First Party has found
a convenient enemy to attack to rally support in the run-up
to next year's elections." (AP)
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