President Rinkēvičs puts groundbreaking partnership law on hold

Latvian President Edgars Rinkēvičs has delayed the promulgation of a groundbreaking partnership law approved by Saeima last week following a request from more than a third of Latvia's 100 lawmakers to do so.

The President's action was confirmed by publication in the official state gazette, Latvijas Vēstnesis on November 13.

"Based on Article 72 of the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia and following the request of 34 members of the Saeima submitted on November 9, 2023, I announce that I am suspending the publication of the law 'Amendments to the Notary Law' adopted by the Saeima on November 9, 2023 for two months," the announcement signed by the President says.

The move was widely anticipated and sets in motion a potentially complicated constitutional process that could result in a national referendum on whether or not the partnership law is adopted.

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.

The opposition announced even before considering amendments to the laws that it would ask the President not to promulgate the laws immediately so it could collect signatures to launch a referendum on the matter.

If at least 34 Saeima deputies ask the President not to announce the law, the President must pause it. Then, within two months, signatures will be able to be collected for passing these laws to a referendum. At least 154,241 eligible people must sign up to hold a referendum (10% of the total number of registered voters in the country).

If the referendum takes place, the law may be repealed if at least half of the number of voters who participated in the last Saeima elections participate in the referendum, and the majority of them vote to repeal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.

So in theory, if the minimum turnout was achieved, the law could be overturned by the votes of around 230,000 opponents.

If the signatures of a tenth of voters calling for a referendum are not collected within two months, then the pause initiated by the President lapses and the laws can be promulgated as normal. Similarly, if the turnout in a referendum is insufficient, the legislative process proceeds on its way.

The partnership regulations stipulate that two adults who have close, personal relationships and share a household and intend to care for it, and care for and support each other, will be able to enter into a partnership by a notarial agreement. Partnership is not meant to replace or equate to marriage, the laws are careful to specify, and if someone in a partnership gets married, the partnership is dissolved.

Despite that, opposition MPs from the United List, National Alliance and Latvia First parties have repeatedly alleged that the law threatens the institution of marriage, and is an attempt to circumvent the Constitution's stipulation that marriage is a union between a man and a woman.

Opposition MPs stressed that the legislation was aimed specifically at legalizing same-sex relationships, though it also applies to different-sex relationships in exactly the same way.

If you would like to look at the text of the law yourself, you can do so here.


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