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Gay And Lesbian Couples (Almost) Equal to Straight Ones in Estonia

Gay And Lesbian Couples (Almost) Equal to Straight Ones in Estonia


Estonia just became the first former Soviet nation to offer legal recognition to same-sex couples.

The former Soviet satellite country of Estonia has embraced a path toward greater equality for same-sex couples, as its president Thursday signed into law a bill granting such couples nearly all of the rights opposite-sex married couples enjoy, reports the Associated Press.

"Estonia (has) made a leap toward a society that is freer, more equal and values human rights for all," Estonia's Human Rights Center director, Kari Kasper, told the AP.

After passing its final parliamentary reading with a vote of 40-38 (with 23 abstentions), President Toomas Hendrick signed the bill into law Thursday, concluding his vocal support for the measure.

The new law establishes civil unions for Estonian couples regardless of gender, securing many of the rights afforded to married spouses, including the right for a partner to adopt their partner's biological child, while stopping short of extending full adoption rights for same-sex couples. The law will take effect in January, when couples in civil unions will be afforded financial, social, and health benefits, according to the AP.

As the 23rd anniversary of the dissolution of the former Soviet Union approaches, the former client states of the USSR continue evolving into two camps: liberal democracies that increasingly respect minority rights, and evermore-homophobic and authoritarian societies.

For example, the former Soviet nation of Kyrgyzstan is currently considering a ban on so-called gay propaganda, similar to the draconian policy signed into law by Russian President Vladimir Putin last year. The Kyrgyz law would provide a sentence of one year in jail for anyone found guilty of "promoting homosexuality" to minors.

"Passage of this blatantly homophobic legislation would violate the human rights of Kyrgyzstan's LGBT community and add to an escalating culture of violence and discrimination against many Kyrgyz citizens," said Human Rights First's Shawn Gaylord in a statement. "The Obama Administration should publicly condemn this legislation and press the Kyrgyz government to stop the passage of this and further discriminatory laws."

So far, the U.S. Department of State has not publicly conmented on the antigay policy proposed by the impoverished Muslim nation of Kyrgyzstan. However, the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn, Estonia's capital, did issue a statement about that nation's civil unions bill, saying the "U.S. government supports equal treatment under the law for all groups and believes the new cohabitation bill extends important rights and protections to unmarried couples and their families."

If Estonia and Kyrgyzstan represent opposite ideologies currently embraced in former Soviet nations, Ukraine and Moldova may represent the still-evolving middle ground.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his administration -- who took power in the capital city of Kiev after Putin acolyte and former president, Viktor Yanukovych, was deposed -- profess a west-leaning ethos of tolerance and inclusion.

Currently locked in a tenuous cease-fire with Russian separatists and a de facto war with Russia, Ukraine is actively seeking membership in NATO and the European Union. Membership in the latter requires respect for LGBT rights and some guarantees of equality.

But the ongoing armed conflict in Ukraine has bred a society currently supercharged with nationalism and machismo, one leading LGBT rights advocate in Kiev recently noted. Such dynamics are notorious for breeding homophobia and transphobia -- demonstrated by a skinhead attack on a gay bar in Kiev that was captured by security cameras last summer.

Just west of Ukraine, the former Soviet nation of Moldova last year took a step back from Russian-style bans on "homosexual propaganda" by repealing legislation that criminalized the expression of positive views about being gay that might be heard or viewed by a minor. Moldova is also seeking EU membership.

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Thom Senzee