The majority of Parliament of Latvia on 20th June 2019 rejected the proposal to create a new civil law institution – Civil Partnership.
In reaction to a draft Civil Partnership Act submitted by parliamentarians of Latvia from the parties Jaunā Vienotība and Attīstībai/Par submitted to the Presidium of Parliament, 39 non-governmental organisations and several prominent citizens invited the MPs to vote against the bill.
The common position of these NGOs and citizens has been stated in the form of a Memorandum for Strengthening Family Values. The Memorandum emphasises that the only foundation of Latvia as a strong and sustainable State is family based on marriage between a man and women. Family is the safest and most beneficial environment for the development of a child, and it must be protected when devising State policies, statutes and regulations.
The letter sent to all the MPs points out that the suggested civil partnership regulation would distort and duplicate the existing legal regulations on marriage and family, as well as create new social and legal problems while failing to promote mutual responsibility in relationships and child care.
As pointed out by Dr. Baiba Rudevska, specialist in private international law, “The legal understanding of marriage and family mentioned in Article 110 of the Latvian Constitution is to be found in the Family Law part of the Latvian Civil Code, as well as in the international treaties binding the Republic of Latvia. These provisions clearly show that family stricto sensu (in the narrow meaning) consists of spouses and their children while they stay in an undivided household. As for family lato sensu (in the wider meaning), it also includes relatives according to the Civil Code. Article 110 of the Constitution obliges the State to protect and support marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and family. That means not only the duty of the State to take active steps in this area, but also the duty to refrain from actions (including legislation) that can or might diminish the level of constitutional protection and support owed to family.’
The Civil Partnership Bill will be the first step in eroding this constitutional protection. The reasons are as follows: (1) this bill would legally recognise same-sex relationships, endowing them with most of the legal consequences of marriage (even though Civil Law explicitly prohibits marriage between persons of the same sex); (2) this bill would introduce something like a surrogate of marriage; (3) by this bill the State intends to compel two persons living in an unregistered partnership to accept some legal consequences of marriage, thus ignoring their personal private choice to live together without any legal consequences of being married, at the same time attacking the inheritance rights of these people’s families (i.e., relatives); (4) this bill would create dissonance and chaos in the legal framework of the Family and Inheritance Law parts of the Civil Code (as well as in the Introductory part relating to conflict norms), because the Civil Partnership Bill contains norms which are characteristic to the legal effects of marriage – which, in turn, would directly affect the entire system of inheritance law in Latvia.
The authors of the letter point out that for several years already, several political parties and politicians are attacking the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia by trying to change the legal meaning of marriage and family. However, the Ministry of Justice of Latvia has previously recognised that “everyone has the right to freely express his/her will and opinions, but he/she has to bear in mind that these expressions of individual will not always be backed by permanent legislative acts of the respective country. Therefore, those in ‘equal or comparable situations’ are persons who have the right to establish family relationships by entering into valid marriages according to the Latvian laws. If the legal framework of the State does not provide any other civil union than marriage–since there have never been any other forms of partnership in Latvia other than marriage–then the expression of a personal will cannot have a decisive character”. This was the declaration of the Ministry of Justice on the occasion of the introduction of a similar bill before the 12th Legislature. The majority of Parliament then rejected the proposal to create a new civil law institution – Civil Partnership.
The document sent to the MPs also invited them to vote against the Civil Partnership Bill, emphasising the fact that neither our domestic laws nor international law oblige Latvia to change the legal definition of marriage and family.
NGO “Association ‘Family’”, executive