LGBT rights in Latvia

EU-Latvia.svg
Location of Latvia (dark green)

– in Europe (light green & dark grey)
– in the European Union (light green)  –  [Legend]

StatusLegal since 1992
Gender identityTransgender people allowed to change gender, require surgery
MilitaryGays, lesbians and bisexuals allowed to serve openly
Discrimination protectionsSexual orientation protection in employment (see below)
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsNo recognition of same-sex couples
RestrictionsSame-sex marriage constitutionally banned
AdoptionNo joint adoption by same-sex couples

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Latvia face legal and social challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity are legal in Latvia, but households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for the same legal protections available to opposite-sex couples. Same-sex couples are unable to marry or adopt. Latvia does not recognize same-sex marriage or any other type of partnership, including registered partnerships.

The democratization process in Latvia has allowed lesbians and gays to establish organizations and infrastructural elements such as bars, clubs, stores, libraries, etc. Cultural, educational and other events can be held. However, this process has only resulted in limited rights for LGBT people and society has not yet reached a high level of tolerance. LGBT persons in Latvia face widespread discrimination in society.[1] In November 2014, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs came out via Twitter, becoming the first openly LGBT elected official in the country.[2]

A 2016 index showed that Latvia was the worst EU country to be gay.[3]

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

In 1992, soon after Latvia regained independence from the Soviet Union, homosexuality was decriminalized.[4] The age of consent is 16 regardless of gender and/or sexuality.[5]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Latvia does not recognise same-sex marriage, nor any form of same-sex partnership.

In 2006, Latvia amended its Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage.[6] Article 110 of the Latvian Constitution formerly read, "The State shall protect and support marriage, the family, the rights of parents and rights of the child. The State shall provide special support to disabled children, children left without parental care or who have suffered from violence."[7] The first sentenced of Article 110 was amended to read: "The State shall protect and support marriage – a union between a man and a woman, the family, the rights of parents and rights of the child."[8]

On 30 January 2015, an MP submitted a proposal for a partnership law, which would have allowed "any two persons" to register a partnership. This would have given cohabiting couples almost the same benefits and obligations as marriage.[9] The proposal was rejected by the Legal Affairs Committee on 24 February 2015. The Committee questioned the intent on changing the Civil Code, focusing on the 2006 constitutional same-sex marriage ban and how far-reaching the benefits of a "marriage-like" partnership would be, while suggesting that any new form of relationships may need to start from the ground up. Veiko Spolītis, who submitted the proposal, clarified that attaching a gender-neutral partnership provision to the existing code would be the fastest way for the bill to become law. Despite the setback, Spolītis has stated that discussions on the issue shall continue nevertheless.[10] Fellow Unity Party member, Ilze Viņķele, has since promised to develop and submit a brand new draft law.[11] In March 2015, a public petition was started by minor party For Latvia's Development for adopting a partnership law, which would provide for the recognition of registered and unregistered partnerships between couples of any sex.[12][13] In October 2018, the Ombudsman called on lawmakers to pass a partnership law for both opposite-sex and same-sex couples, citing statistics that showed that about half of Latvian children are born out of wedlock, and that these families should enjoy legal protections and rights.[14] On 20 June 2019, Saeima MPs voted against sending the partnership bill to further discussion and review in parliamentary commissions. Only 23 members voted for the bill, 60 voted against it and one member abstained.[15] Supporters of the bill have said that they will persevere and try to persuade deputies to discuss it again in the future.[16]

In June 2018, the European Court of Justice ruled that EU members states must grant married same-sex couples, where at least one partner is an EU citizen, full residency rights and recognise their freedom of movement.[17] No other rights of marriage are conferred to the couple.[18]

Party positions on partnership law[edit]

Party In favour Seats in the Saeima Position
     Social Democratic Party "Harmony" No 23 Opposition
     Who Owns the State? No 16 Coalition/Opposition (minority)
     New Conservative Party No 16 Coalition
     Development/For! Yes 13 Coalition
     National Alliance No 13 Coalition
     Union of Greens and Farmers No 13 Opposition
     New Unity Yes 8 Coalition
     Latvian Association of Regions Unknown 0 Extraparliamentary Opposition
     Latvian Russian Union No 0 Extraparliamentary Opposition
     The Progressives Yes 0 Extraparliamentary Opposition
     For Latvia from the Heart No 0 Extraparliamentary Opposition

Adoption and family planning[edit]

Latvian law allows any person over 25 to adopt. However, persons who are not married to each other may not adopt the same child.[19] This means that for unmarried couples only one partner may adopt a child. However, lesbian couples can get access to IVF and assisted insemination treatment.

Discrimination protections[edit]

In September 2006, Latvia's Parliament, the Saeima, passed amendments to the Labour Code (Latvian: Darba likums) prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the workplace. The Saeima had initially omitted such protections, but President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga refused to sign the bill until it was added.[20]

Gender identity and expression[edit]

It is possible to surgically change gender in Latvia and to legally change identity to reflect this. Latvian law does not define "sex change", but a medical certificate must be submitted to the authorities in order to legally change gender.[21] However, in 2004, authorities denied a change of legal identity to a transperson who had undergone a partial sex change. The person, who reported having knowledge of another case in which their legal sex was changed after a partial sex change, took legal action. The Supreme Court of Latvia ruled in 2008, that in this particular case, legal identity should have been changed as the authority had done so in similar cases and the person, already presenting as male, might face a variety of issues having to legally identify as female. This resulted in a 2009 legislative proposal to amend laws, which would have made it mandatory for transgender people to undergo sterilization (which could have caused further legal complications) in order to change their legal gender. The amendments were, however, rejected by the Saeima (Parliament).[22]

Military service[edit]

Lesbians, gays and bisexuals are allowed to serve openly in the Latvian Armed Forces.

Living conditions[edit]

Europride 2015 in Riga

Only in the capital, Riga, is there a small gay scene. Elsewhere in Latvia, however, the sparse population means there is no gay scene. There are few publicly prominent persons who openly identify themselves as gay or lesbian, for example Latvian American journalist Kārlis Streips, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs, and former Deputy Rector of the Riga Graduate School of Law Linda Freimane. In the 2018 parliamentary elections, Rinkēvičs was reelected as Foreign Minister and Marija Golubeva became Latvia's first openly lesbian politician, winning a seat for the Development/For! (AP!) party. AP! has declared itself a "pro-LGBT" party.[23]

Most people in Latvia have prejudices against homosexuality, usually rooted in social conservatism and lingering preconceptions dating from the Soviet period. An example of this is the belief that homosexuality and pedophilia are linked phenomena.[24][25] Such popularly-held anti-gay sentiments had grown increasingly by 2008, exploited by various religious groups,[26][27] and politicians.[6]

Gays and lesbians are often attacked in the streets or in the meeting places. Lesbians and gays can make no criminal charge against their attackers other than "hooliganism".[28]

In 2002, Māris Sants, an openly gay minister, was defrocked and excommunicated from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia.[29][30] Archbishop Jānis Vanags later declared in a public statement, "Why Māris Sants was fired",[31] that Sants was not removed from office because he was gay, but because he in his sermons publicly promoted, instead of condemning, the "sinful" homosexual "lifestyle." When pastor Juris Cālītis, then also dean of the University of Latvia's Faculty of Theology, not only publicly criticised the improper way in which Sants's case was handled by the Church Synod, but also allowed Sants to co-officiate in a church service, Cālītis, too, was removed from office and expelled from the church by Vanags.[32] This case helped to create a public debate in Latvia regarding the need for legislation to protect LGBT persons from discrimination by employers.

Due to prevailing negative attitudes in society, and particularly the violent actions of a vocal anti-LGBT minority (e.g. National Power Unity), there is a fear that further lobbying for the rights of sexual minorities will provoke an even stronger backlash. In a February 2007 survey of 537 LGBT persons in Latvia, 82% of respondents said they were not in favour of holding the planned Riga Pride and Friendship Days 2007, while only 7% felt that these events would help promote tolerance against sexual minorities.[33] Nevertheless, the event took place in 2007; in contrast with 2005 where counter-protestors greatly outnumbered Pride attendees and in 2006 where the event was banned. It was peaceful and the 500 pride-goers outnumbered around 100 counter-protestors. However, a simultaneous anti-Pride event attracted around 1,000 attendees.[34] In 2015, Europride took place in Riga attracting around 5,000 participants, while a few dozens participated in a protest meeting against the event.[35]

Baltic Pride 2018 was attended by an estimated 8,000 people. The event took place peacefully, with only about a dozen protesters.[36]

LGBT rights movement in Latvia[edit]

Following public manifestations of homophobia surrounding Riga Pride in 2005,[37] some members of the LGBT community, their friends, and family members united to found the organisation Mozaīka in order to promote tolerance towards sexual minorities and LGBT rights in Latvian society.[38] In response, an umbrella organisation for co-ordinating anti-LGBT rights activism in Latvia, NoPride, was formed in the run-up to Riga Pride and Friendship Days 2006.

Public opinion[edit]

A Eurobarometer survey published on December 2006 showed that 12% of Latvians surveyed supported same-sex marriage and 8% supported same-sex adoption (EU-wide average: 44% and 32%, respectively).[39]

The 2015 Eurobarometer found that 19% of Latvians supported same-sex marriage (EU average: 61%). Additionally, 42% of Latvians believed that gay and lesbian people should enjoy the same rights as straight people and 23% believed that there is nothing wrong about a relationship between two people of the same sex (EU average: 71% and 67%, respectively).[40]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1992)
Equal age of consent (16) Yes (Since 1992)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment Yes (Since 2006)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriage No/Yes (Constitutional ban since 2006; same-sex marriages performed in the EU recognised for residency purposes since 2018)[17]
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Adoption by a single LGBT person Yes
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays, lesbians and bisexuals allowed to serve openly in the military Yes
Right to change legal gender Yes
Conversion therapy banned on minors No
Access to IVF for lesbians Yes
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No (Banned regardless of sexual orientation)
MSMs allowed to donate blood Yes[41]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tapinsh, Aleks (4 June 2007). "Homophobic Attitudes Remain Entrenched". Transitions Online. Retrieved 20 February 2008.
  2. ^ Gay rights in eastern Europe just took a big step forward, The Washington Post, 6 November 2014, accessed 9 November 2014
  3. ^ Latvia is worst place to be gay in EU, index shows
  4. ^ ILGA-Europe, country page for Latvia Archived 22 April 2007 at the Wayback Machine (accessed 13 May 2007).
  5. ^ National Laws - Legislation of INTERPOL member states on sexual offences against children - Latvia - Lettonie - Letonia at the Library of Congress Web Archives (archived 2001-09-27)
  6. ^ a b Laura Sheeter, "Latvia defies EU over gay rights", BBC News website, 16 June 2006.
  7. ^ "The Constitution of the Republic". www.saeima.lv.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 9 December 2008. Retrieved 23 October 2008. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ "Ziņas / Diena". www.diena.lv.
  10. ^ DELFI (24 February 2015). "Komisija izbrāķē partnerattiecību legalizēšanu; Spolītis sola turpināt diskusijas".
  11. ^ "Debates: Par un pret partnerattiecību reģistrāciju Latvijā • IRIR.lv". 2 March 2015.
  12. ^ "Portālā "Mana balss" vāc parakstus par Kopdzīves likuma pieņemšanu Latvijā" (in Latvian). tvnet.lv. 23 March 2015. Retrieved 27 June 2015.
  13. ^ Rauhvargere, Līva (15 May 2015). "Kopdzīves likuma projektu rosina papildināt ar kopdzīves fakta reģistrācijas regulējumu" (in Latvian). lsm.lv. Retrieved 27 June 2015.
  14. ^ 21st century family requires appropriate legal framework
  15. ^ "Latvia rejects Unmarried Couple's Law intended for cohabiting partners". Baltic News Network. 20 June 2019.
  16. ^ Dzērve, Laura (20 June 2019). "Neraugoties uz Saeimas balsojumu par Dzīvesbiedru likumu, iniciatori sola neapstāties". Delfi.lv (in Latvian).
  17. ^ a b "Same-sex spouses have EU residence rights, top court rules". BBC News. 5 June 2018.
  18. ^ Laura Dzērve, "ES Tiesas spriedums: laulāto draugu Adriana un Kleija izcīnītā kopābūšana", DELFI, 15.06.2018
  19. ^ "Civillikums". LIKUMI.LV. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  20. ^ The text of these amendments is available online at the official website of the Saeima and the portal POLITIKA.LV.
  21. ^ "Civilstāvokļa aktu reģistrācijas likums" (in Latvian). Retrieved 27 June 2015.
  22. ^ "Saeima noraida grozījumus dzimuma maiņas reģistrēšanai".
  23. ^ "Latvia elects two openly LGBTI politicians for the first time in history". Gay Star News. 8 October 2018.
  24. ^ nopride.lv, "The Homosexual Movement And Pedophilia" (accessed 13 May 2007).
  25. ^ Gunta Briede, fragments of an interview with psychologist and LGBT rights activist Jolanta Cihanoviča (in Latvian), DELFI.lv, 2 September 2005 (accessed 13 May 2007).
  26. ^ "High Profile Meeting". New Generation Church. 10 March 2007. Retrieved 18 March 2008.
  27. ^ Tony Grew, Cardinal: homosexuality a form of prostitution, Pink News, 9 May 2007 (accessed 6 June 2007)
  28. ^ ILGA-Europe, Euro-Letter 41, May 1996.
  29. ^ GayRussia.ru, "Latvian Priest strongly supports the Riga Gay Pride", interview with M. Sants, 17 July 2006 (accessed 13 May 2007).
  30. ^ Barbara Oertel, "Der lange Marsch zum Coming-out" (in German), interview with M. Sants, Die Tageszeitung, 23 July 2005 (accessed 13 May 2007).
  31. ^ Vanags, Jānis (4 June 2002). "Kādēļ atstādināja Māri Santu" (in Latvian). Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia. Archived from the original on 9 October 2006. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
  32. ^ Juris Lavrikovs, "Leading Latvian pastor excommunicated from the church for supporting gays" Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine, ILGA-Europe website, 17 November 2005 (accessed 13 May 2007).
  33. ^ ILGA-Latvia Survey Working Group, poll conducted 1–28 February 2007. From ILGA-Latvia website Archived 20 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine (in Latvian) (accessed 13 May 2007).
  34. ^ "365gay.com".
  35. ^ Rozenberga, Māra (20 June 2015). "Eiropraidā piedalījušies 5000 cilvēku; policija aiztur trīs personas" (in Latvian). Retrieved 27 June 2015.
  36. ^ "Around 8,000 people march in Baltic Pride parade in Riga". Xinhua. 9 June 2018.
  37. ^ "Protests disrupt Latvia gay march", bbc.co.uk, 23 July 2005.
  38. ^ Mozaīka English-language homepage Archived 15 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  39. ^ "EUROBAROMETER 66 FIRST RESULTS" (PDF). TNS. European Commission. December 2006. p. 80. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
  40. ^ "Special Eurobarometer 437: Discrimination in the EU in 2015" (PDF). European Commission. October 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 January 2016. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  41. ^ "Asins donora anketa — Valsts asinsdonoru centrs". www.vadc.gov.lv.

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