Baltic Pride – not parliament – has the potential for LGBT liberation in Estonia

Civil partnerships for LGBT couples could be recognised in Estonian law from July. But William Cleary argues that the Baltic Pride festival, which will be held in Estonia’s capital in June, will be more significant for LGBT liberation.


Estonian legislators are preparing a civil partnerships bill for the parliament, the Riigikogu. The bill is in response to growing rates of unmarried cohabitation: if passed, it will allow couples to formalise their relationships, regardless of gender. It seems very likely to succeed, having already gained the support of MPs from all four major parties, including a minority from the most conservative of these, the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union.

There is no talk of it leading to anything like the UK’s Equal Marriage Bill (which in any case does not accommodate transgender couples). According to Gay Star News: ‘it seems unlikely that the bill will create adoption rights for same-sex couples in Estonia as this is strongly opposed by government coalition member party the Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica, whose leadership are opposed to same-sex partnerships being recognised.’

For many of us, same-sex marriages and civil partnerships are the least of our concerns. They offer some extended property rights and perhaps more tolerance, but little else. Anyone who doesn’t buy into the fantasy of ‘gay affluence’ knows this.

Far more urgent problems specifically affecting LGBT people include unemployment, homelessness,censorship, and violence at the hands of fascist gangs in collusion with the state. Living so close to Russia and Lithuania, Estonians are particularly alert to the threat of homophobic violence and censorship of ‘gay propaganda’.

From June 2nd to 8th, the annual Baltic Pride festival will be held in Estonia’s capital, Tallinn. It is likely that this will be a better indicator of public opinion on sexuality than the civil partnership law.

Homophobic protesters from the conservative Pro Patria and Res Publica Union should be expected, as well as from the small but visible far-right Estonian Independence Party, which uses white supremacist symbolism and has ties to neo-Nazis who annually display support for the Estonian Waffen SS.

We cannot rely on a change in the law to destroy institutional sexism and people’s commonly held prejudices, when law-makers have sought for so long to divide and conquer the working class along lines of sexuality and gender.

Our goal as socialists is queer liberation: the kinds of discussion that really matter will appear in Baltic Pride, not in parliament. We must find some way to show solidarity with this campaign.


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