Win for the same-sex couples

State of Estonia decided to finally give the right of temporary residence to the registered same sex partners of Estonians to live a family life in Estonia. In the beginning of August, Estonian Police and Border Guard Board satisfied the application for the right of temporary residence given in by Sarah Raud, an US citizen who had married to Estonian Kristiina Raud on the basis of the Registered Partnership Act. 

Sarah and Kristiina Raud got married legally in USA in 2015 and decided to come to Estonia to live their family life here. However, Estonian Police and Border Guard Board declined to give out the permit of temporary residence to Sarah and the couple turned to court to defend their rights. Last year the final court decision by which the state of Estonia did not recognize their marriage as a basis for giving out the permit of temporary residence, came into effect.

Although during these two years, Sarah had to leave Estonia for several times that brought remarkable emotional turmoil and financial expenses with it, they went for another court round in the name of justice, rights, their love and family and for other couples in similar situation. On 5 June in 2018 they registered their Registered Partnership Act, on the basis of which, Sarah applied for the permit of temporary residence from the state to get the legal right to live in Estonia. It took the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board one year to proceed the application – instead of one month that is legally given – but they finally managed to satisfy Sarah’s application. In doing that they indicated to the decision made by the general assembly of the State Court that admitted the part of the foreigners law not giving the basis for the right of temporary residence to the same sex partners of Estonia citizens being in conflict with the Constitution.

Kari käsper, the Executive Director of the Estonian Human Rights Centre commented that ‘it is positive that the state has taken the direction to behave with same sex couples in a more humane and dignified way. There is no justifiable reason to treat the foreign partners of a same sex couple in a poorly manner, compared to those couples where both of the partners are Estonians.’

Kristiina and Sarah are glad that the state has changed its practice in regards of the same sex couples but the change arrived a bit too late for them. ‘We are very glad that the state of Estonia has changed their approach in regards of same sex couples and families and that Sarah could finally have the right to live in Estonia. However, the process was long and through that period we suffered under lot of stress due to the uncertainty and unstable future prospects and we grew apart. So during the process we decided to break up.’

Liisa Linna, the advocate who represented the couple through the whole case helped Sarah and Kristiina to turn to the European Court of Human Rights to get the juridical assessment to the situation and that from the human rights perspective.  The news does not influence the European Court of Human Rights but arriving to a real court decision could take years.

Throughout the years, Estonian Human Rights Centre has supported different people and couples in the situations where their rights have been violated or they have suffered discrimination of any kind, also inside the Estonian juridical system. We encourage those whose rights have been violated or who have dealt with discrimination to come forth and contact us. Individuals, companies and organizations can support the people and their ongoing court cases by donating us. Everyone has the right to live their family life in a stable atmosphere without mistreatment and obstacles.

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