LGBT situation in Estonia
2011 can be considered an important year for LGBT+ persons – Tallinn hosted the Baltic Pride festival for the first time and the Estonian LGBT Association was opened in Tallinn. In addition to that several known persons published a manifest in support of the Civil Partnership Act. In 2014 the Estonian Parliament passed the Civil Partnership Act on a vote of 40 to 38 and it came into force on January 1, 2016. It was a gain for LGBT citizens and for the country itself because Estonia became the first ex-Soviet country that legalized same-sex partnership. Thanks to the Registered Partnership Act coming into force the families with same-sex parents can adopt children within the family.
Unfortunately the implementing provisions, which had planned to be ready at the same time, were not passed and according to the Estonian LGBT Association at least half of the notaries refuse to authenticate the contracts. The couple who wishes to register their partnership should ask from the Estonian LGBT Association, which notary’s services are available. The conflict surrounding the Registered Partnership Act has affected the entire political and institutional landscape and is causing tensions in political parties to this day.
In 2017 preparations were made to change regulation on recognizing transgender people’s gender. This would separate the legal and medical process of gender recognition and speed up the currently two-year process which creats difficulties for transgender people. The amendments will be in accordance with views of Transgender Europe, including that a person must be able to change their personal data within a reasonable time regardless of medical activities. With regards to medical activities the person must have the right to decide which activities they wish and need, if at all, to feel like their perceived gender. The new Public Health Act is planned to come into force on 1 January 2019.
2017 can be considered a year of festivals. The largest international LGBT+ festival Baltic Pride took place in Tallinn. There were several events, including an international conference and after 10 years the first pride march which drew attention to equal treatment and the need to adopt implementing provisions for Registered Partnership Act. The events were generally peaceful but there were few incidents during the march. LGBTI film festival Festheart took place in Rakvere, which intended to make Estonia more tolerant and understanding. Unfortunately the project failed to receive backing from town of Rakvere but thanks to it, it gained more public attention.
Estonian Human Rights Center has monitored the situation of LGBT people in Estonia for seven years. The 2017 research shows that the attitude towards lesbians and gays have improved from from 34% in 2014 to 41% in 2017.
Researchers note that there is a difference between acceptance of homosexuality between Estonian- speaking and Russian-speaking citizens. 56% of Estonian speakers supported the law on co-residence and 47% supported same-sex marriage, while among Russian speakers these numbers were 21% and 20%.
Homosexuality was illegal in the Soviet Union but it was legalized in Estonia in 1992 almost immediately after becoming independent from Russia. Before Soviet occupation time in 1918-1940 same-sex sexual activity was legal in Estonia.