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Latvian president
signs constitutional same-sex marriage ban

Latvian president
signs constitutional same-sex marriage ban

While adding an antigay clause to the nation's constitution, the president of Latvia called on lawmakers to be more tolerant.

Latvian president Vaira Vike-Freiberga on Wednesay signed into law a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman, making the northern European nation one of the first in Europe to have an antigay clause in its constitution. The announcement came shortly after a meeting between the president and Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis of the Latvia First Party.

In a statement, the president pointed out that the change to the constitution does not alter anything, as marriage was already defined in civil law as being the union of a man and a woman. "If one had in mind that by adding such a requirement to the constitution it will guarantee that it will stay there for ever and all time, then it is, of course, an illusion--a wrong hope," she said.

Vike-Freiberga then noted that the Latvian parliament can change the amendment whenever it wants. "Honestly speaking, as president I cannot clearly see the benefit to the nation of this amendment. However, since it does not indeed change anything in substance for the better nor for the worse, I don't see any reason not to sign it," the president said. "I would also like to stress that this constitutional amendment in no way introduces any discriminatory requirements for gays and lesbians."

Vike-Freiberga went on to comment on the debate in parliament. "The debates which took place in [parliament] when discussing this amendment, in my view, very often demonstrated very explicit intolerance and explicit homophobia," she said. "People can have their own religious beliefs, their own understanding of what is sin and what is not, what is appropriate and what is not appropriate behavior. However, as president, I would like to remind [you] that in a democratic nation, as we are, private life is separated from the public sphere, and what people do privately is no one's business unless it contradicts our laws."

Some gay rights activists have vowed to challenge the amendment in the European Court of Human Rights. Latvia, a former Soviet republic that joined the European Union last year, sees itself as a progressive democracy enjoying one of Europe's fastest-growing economies, but many people retain conservative views about homosexuality. (Advocate.com)

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