Little response to idea of referendum against partnership in Latvia

Since December 7 when signature collection to initiate a referendum to repeal partnership regulation in Latvia, 3,801 voters have signed, Latvian Television reported December 12.

The initiation of a referendum against the partnership framework can only be signed in person in the places determined by each particular municipality by January 5 next year. To trigger a referendum, one-tenth of the population with voting rights, or about 155,000 people's, signatures would have to be collected by January 5.

Until now, the most signatures have been collected in Rīga, Daugavpils, Liepāja. Augšdaugava and Ogre municipalities.  Compiling data on voter turnout shows that even one percent of signatures from the number of eligible voters have not been collected so far.

TV Kurzeme reported that in Liepāja and surrounding areas, 195 residents have signed for the initiation of a referendum against the partnership institute in Latvia. 

"Turnout is not high. Mostly let's say, people of a certain age come, but young people have come too. And they ask what the signature is about, [..] and they can get information materials," said Benita Šēniņa, President of Liepaja Election Commission.

Most of the surveyed residents believe they are not sufficiently informed or are simply not interested in it.

However, Latvian Radio reported Wednesday that in some churches, pastors or other authorities encourage churchgoers to sign, as reported by eyewitnesses.

A similar invitation has been published by the Latvian Bishops Conference together with the associations “For Family” and “Alliance of Parents”. They call on believers to sign on proposing a referendum, as well as to encourage their loved ones and fellow people to do so.

Union of Baptist Churches in Latvia also takes an active stand, Bishop Kaspars Šterns confirmed: "First of all, we appeal to the people of our congregation, generally the public, to engage and express their views. And I would even say that in this case, first and foremost, to exercise our democratic rights and, on such a fundamental issue, to make any point at all, whether it be in favor or against. And secondly, we call to stick to the Constitution: a Union between two people is a marriage between a man and a woman. In our view, this is a fundamental issue and, also in the light of the example of Estonia, where the partnership law was originally talked about, but it subsequently resulted in the approval of same-sex marriage."

As previously reported by LSM, on November 9 the Saeima approved a new partnership law by means of amendments to the Notary Law that would include provision for registered same-sex partnerships (and dual-sex partnerships) with legal status and protection for the first time. Amendments to the laws are expected to come into force on July 1, 2024.

The applicable legislation was passed thanks to the government's narrow majority in parliament but was preceded by stormy debates both within the chamber and in wider society. Reaction to the partnership law has varied from joy among civil rights groups to dismay among 'family values' traditionalists.

If the referendum takes place, the law may be repealed if at least half of the number of voters who participated in the last Saeima elections participate in the referendum, and the majority of them vote to repeal the law. 916,368 voters participated in the Saeima elections, a turnout of around 60%, so a turnout of around 30% (458,184 voters) would be required for the result of any referendum to be binding.

If such a referendum were held, the partnership institute would be supported by 32% of Latvia's residents and 30% would oppose it, according to a survey of residents conducted by the research center Norstat in cooperation with

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