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  • November 2023 : In Latvia, (neo)pagans have a legal right to marry

In Latvia, special legal status is granted to the eight religious communities mentioned in the Civil Law (Section 51) : the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Latvian Orthodox Church, the Old Believers, the Methodists, the Baptists, the Seventh Day Adventists and the Believers in Moses (Judaism). The first (neo)pagan group in Latvia, Dievturi – ‘the keepers of god’, was registered in 1926. Over the last decades, attention has been paid to the application of the public rights to (neo)pagan groups requesting parity rights. This call for parity means the requirement to access the same rights and advantages as those enjoyed by so called “traditional denominations.”

On 18 October 2022, the Parliament of Latvia (Saeima) conceptually supported the amendments to the Civil Law proposed by the National Association. On 10 October 2023, the amendments to the Civil Law entered into force. They state that the marriage rite performed by a minister belonging to the Dievturi denomination has legal force. However, the new legal provisions cannot be applied until the law on mutual relations between the state and the Dievturi religious organisation is adopted. Such a condition is required by the related amendments to the law “On the Time of Coming into Force and the Procedures for the Application of the Part on Family Law of the Renewed Civil Law of 1937 of the Republic of Latvia”.

At present, the Civil Law states that a marriage shall be solemnised by the official of a General Registry Office or a minister from the denominations set out in Section 51 : “If the persons to be married belong to the Evangelical Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Old Believers, Methodist, Baptist, Seventh Day Adventist or believers in Moses (Judaism) denominations and wish to be married by a minister of their denomination who has the relevant permission from the leaders of the denomination, then they shall be married in accordance with the procedures of the denomination concerned.” The list of religious organisations contained in the new wording of Section 51 of the Civil Law has been supplemented by a reference to Dievturi.

The data received by the Ministry of Justice suggest that there are about 500 Dievturi in Latvia. The documents submitted to the Legal Affairs Committee of the Parliament of Latvia during the examination of the draft law stated that the right to perform the ceremony of marriage will be granted to 17 Dievturi ministers.

  • February 2022 : Debate on the draft law on civil union in Latvia

In 2020, the mother of a newborn child applied to the Constitutional Court as her female partner was unable to obtain the ten-day leave which, according to the Labour Law, has to be granted to the child’s father. The applicant emphasised that the contested provision is contrary to the best interests of the child, since it prevents the providing of physical and emotional support to the partner and her child.
The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Latvia ruled that the provision of the Labour Law, in so far as it does not provide protection and support for the mother’s partner due to the birth of the child, does not comply with Article 110 of the Constitution of Latvia (Satversme). Given that the legislator has not established a legal framework for family relationships between same-sex partners and has not adopted measures for social and economic protection and support of same-sex partner families on the occasion of the birth of a child, the Constitutional Court tasked the legislator with arranging the Labour Law provisions, as appropriate, to also ensure legal, social and economic protection of same-sex partners.

On February 2022, the Draft Law on Civil Union, which allows registration of same-sex partnerships in Latvia, was tabled to the Saeima (Parliament) committees for discussion. The following Christian denominations of Latvia object to the draft law : the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church of Latvia, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia, the Union of Baptist Churches in Latvia, the Old Believer Pomorian Church of Latvia, the Latvian Pentecostal Church Association, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the Latvia United Methodist Church. The leaders of these Christian denominations sent to the members of the Saeima of the Republic of Latvia an "Appeal regarding the draft Law on Civil Union", pointing out that the draft law obscures Article 110 of Satversme, which protects the institution of marriage and family, and puts children’s rights to grow up together with their biological parents at risk. The appeal emphasises that it is in the best interests of the child to grow up in a family where his/her father is a male and the mother a female. The obligation of the state and each citizen is to support and strengthen, as far as possible, such a union. The introduction of registered partnerships with regard to both homosexual and heterosexual couples would also lead to the recognition of same-sex marriages in Latvia.

Stating the reasons for their objections, the leaders of the Christian denominations pointed out that the public of Latvia is witnessing increasing tensions lately caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Therefore, a draft law contributing to divisions in society should not be taken forward in the Saeima. According to the leaders of the Christian denominations, the judgement of the Constitutional Court can be enforced through amendments to the Labour Law. Those living in a common household may benefit from the possibility to conclude agreements and approve powers of attorney before a notary. The leaders of the Christian denominations appealed to the members of the Saeima to support the version of the draft law that would strengthen families and help people of Latvia build a cohesive society.

D 21 novembre 2023    AAnita Stasulane

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