State stops Kristiina and Sarah from living together in Estonia

Kristiina and Sarah have been legally married since they wed in the United States on 27 October 2015, and together even longer. To date they have been able to live together in each other’s home countries by taking it in turns to reside in Estonia and USA as tourists, but they want to start a life together under one roof in Estonia. They shared their story on the 2 November edition of Pealtnägija on ETV.

On 23 October 2016, Sarah, a US citizen, was forced to return to the United States because the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board had not issued her with an Estonian residence permit. The reason for this is that Estonia does not recognise marriages between same-sex partners. The couple has sought state protection in order to maintain their status as a family. However, since the state has shown no sign of good will, the couple plan to put their case before the courts. The Estonian Human Rights Centre is supporting the couple with strategic litigation with the help of donations made by compassionate people from all over Estonia. The Centre will be covering the couple’s lawyer’s fees, state fees and other costs arising as part of the court case.

The Estonian Chancellor of Justice, in her letter to the Riigikogu no. 6-1/151504/1505500 of 9 December 2015, highlighted the fact that § 118 of the Aliens Act contravenes § 12, 26 and 27 of the Constitution insofar as it denies the possibility of a residence permit being obtained in order to live with a same-sex partner. The Chancellor stated that there is no reason why the right of individuals in same-sex partnerships to live together should be restricted.

“The equal treatment of people in enabling cohabitation is required not only by the Estonian Constitution but also by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the requirements of which Estonia has undertaken to fulfil,” the Chancellor said. “Since same-sex partners are not able to marry in Estonia, this means that unlike opposite-sex partners they are not able to take steps to meet the conditions set out in the Aliens Act in order to obtain a residence permit with the aim of living together. There is no rational or pertinent reason for the worse treatment of same-sex partners.”

Similar conculsion has been reached recently by the European Court of Human Rights in the Taddeucci and McCall v Italy case.

If you wish to contribute financially to Kristiina and Sarah’s court case and to the court cases of many other same-sex families, you can do so via this donation initiative or by setting up a (standing) donation to the Estonian Human Rights Centre.

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