Couples in registered partnerships should receive equal treatment

In June 2017, the Supreme Court explained in the case of the lesbian couple Sarah and Kristiina Raud that same-sex couples also have the right to protection of family life in Estonia. In its historic decision, the court states that in the context of the Constitution protection of family life from interference by the state has not been made conditional on the sex of the members of the family or their sexual orientation.

Both married couples and couples who have registered their partnership should receive equal treatment

Estonian Human Rights Centre is glad that the court continues to pursue the principles developed in the case of Sarah and Kristiina, and in a recent case of a gay couple ruled the Aliens Act to be in contradiction with the Constitution in the part where it does not foresee legal grounds for granting a temporary residence permit to the registered same sex partner of an Estonian citizen so that the couple could live in Estonia.

This means that both married couples and couples who have registered their partnership should receive equal treatment and both marriage and registered partnership sould be recognised as grounds to grant a temporary residence permit to the foreign partner in Estonia. As the family life of heterosexual and homosexual couples is equally protected on the basis of the Consitution, Circuit Court does not see a justified and appropriate reason for treating the couples differently.

Lesbian couple’s case brought about change

Kristiina and Sarah Raud have so far lost in Supreme Court, which ruled that Estonia does not recognise their marriage, which was registered in the USA. However, in the meantime the couple has registered their partnership in Estonia and submitted an application to the Police and Border Gurad Board (PPA) for Sarah (US citizen) to be granted temporary residence permit in Estonia.

The case of Sarah and Kristiina has been groundbreaking: thanks to their long court proceedings, Estonia developed its approach to same-sex marriages registered abroad and PPA recognises these marriages in case both of the partners held residence in the country they married in at the time of registering the marriage. In the case of Sarah and Kristiina, only Sarah was a resident of USA, but Kristiina was still a resident of Estonia at the time of registering their marriage.

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