I’ve never crashed an Estonian poll before

Kas toetate sooneutraalset kooseluseadust?

Jah 51.58%
Ei 47.3%
Puudub arvamus 1.12%

You know what to do.

(Oh, you want a hint? “Do you support gender-neutral cohabitation law?” Jah, yes; Ei, No: Puudub arvamus, no opinion. You’ll have to figure out your opinion on your own. Hääleta!)


  1. Doubting Thomas says

    I’m assuming that the law says its OK to cohabitate regardless of gender? So Jah! Why do they need a law like that? Is it because there is discrimination against same sex people living together?

  2. mastmaker says

    +1 Doubting Thomas.

    Why is a law required to just ‘cohabitate’? People of same gender cohabit everywhere (fraternity, any one?)

  3. mastmaker says


    (Devil!) Is it like India (or other conservative countries/areas) where society frowns upon cohabitation of two people of OPPOSITE gender (while people of same gender may cohabitate without raising eyebrows)

  4. Musca Domestica says

    It’s about getting some legal rights as a non-married co-habitating couple (the piece mentions as an example getting a loan together). A sort of registration for those not wanting/getting to marry. (I only know what it says on the short piece.)

  5. says

    Of course it is possible to cohabitate with your same-sex partner and nobody bothers you in Estonia for that. But these relations are not legally recognised, so partners can not make tax declaration together, can not adopt partners child, so if something happens to one partner then child could be taken away from home etc. This law would recognise same-sex partnerships as legal entity or as a family and would make the life of those families much easier. For example visit a sick partner in hospital, buy a family ticket in a museum… Almost like marriage, but we are not there yet, so intermediate step is taken.

  6. Moggie says

    Puudub arvamus will get some more votes when the Hogwarts crowd notices the poll.

  7. =8)-DX says

    I’d assume the law is to make it explicit that existing legislation (as well as legal precedent) that deals with “cohabiting” couples applies irrespective of gender. Each country has laws on this a little different, for us it’s a kind of automatic legal status that is granted based on living together over a year, while common law has the concept of a common-law husband/wife, not sure about the Estonians though =].

    Anyway, Jah!

  8. says

    Yes, the new law is gender-neutral, so it applies to all couples who do not want to get married, but are otherwise practically married.

    Legislation would provide weaker parties in such civil partnerships and regulate legal consequences.

    To register cohabitation, participants will probably be required to sign a notarized agreement where they choose a property relatinship and agree on matters of inheritance.

    The bill is a candidate to be fast-tracked – the goal is for the legislation to come into force on July 1.


  9. John Horstman says

    *Sigh* We need to stop writing laws for which someone’s family structure matters in the slightest, as they are inherently and (nearly always) unjustifiably discriminatory. Still, until that is the case, ‘Jah’ it is.

  10. Artor says

    Without knowing the actual wording of the law, I can’t offer an opinion on it. Certainly by the name, it sounds like something I’d support, but here in the US, “religious freedom” laws are used to allow the religious to discriminate against others. I don’t know how they do things in Estonia, and I don’t know how the law is written. So I can’t say either way.

  11. =8)-DX says

    *Sigh* We need to stop writing laws for which someone’s family structure matters in the slightest, as they are inherently and (nearly always) unjustifiably discriminatory. Still, until that is the case, ‘Jah’ it is

    Since human family structures and relationships are diverse and complicated, surely we need more and more comprehensive laws to cover all situations? How is expanding a law to include more diverse family structures not a step in the right direction? How is a law concerning cohabitting couples discriminatory against other family structures?

    I guess this is probably an issue of polyamory/nonstandard family structures for you, and existing laws don’t include these people, but it’s definitely not a case of “let’s write a law that pretends family structure doesn’t matter”.. Replacing “both” with “each” and “two” with “multiple” wont solve all the issues of custody, inheritance, visitation. A poly third may not want to be “married” to their partners, so new laws need to extend current law as well as rewrite to despecify badly-worded sections, for some situations entirely new legislation needs to be drafted. =/

  12. Andres Soolo says

    The new law is not necessary a positive thing in the Big Picture, although it’s probably a positive development in the short term. It’s largely a political compromise triggered by the recent change in coalition (but that’s a whole different saga).

    Estonian marriage context is significantly different from USian. For one, official marriage is fairly unpopular, and many couples ‘cohabitate’. The Estonian word for this actually, literally translates to ‘free marriage’, and this translates to some people’s attitude that an official marriage is in a way ‘unfree’.

    On the other hand, Estonia being a civil law country, there has never been anything resembling common law marriage, so in several important ways, free marriages operate outside the protection of laws. A possibly important exception is that the requirement to support a child flows from legal parenthood, not marriage status of the parents.

    The proposed law would set up a kind of ‘light marriage’, or ‘official cohabitation’ — I’d probably not translate it as a ‘civil partnership’, although this seems to be the intended niche —, which would not restrict the participants’ genders but still offer some, but not all, aspects of the legal status of marriage, and probably importantly, would not need too extensive divorces to dissolve. In particular, a simplified procedure for a registered cohabitant to adopt their partner’s child (but not jointly adopting third-party children) has been mentioned, as well as a framework for jointly borrowing money (which in reality seems to just involve enticing banks to accept registered cohabitation as an indicator of stability, as the legalities of joint loans are all in place, having been borrowed from German well-developed law on debt relations), and I’d expect, for filing income taxes jointly, thus allowing pooling the tax-free minimum (currently, €144 per person per month, or €1728 per person per year, beyond which the income tax is flat, currently 21%). Also, ‘upgrading’ a registered cohabitation into a ‘full marriage’ is supposed to be easy, as long as the parties are of different gender.

    So, in a sense, it’s offering a second-class status to same-sex partners, with the caveat that they’d share this status with a lot of different-sex partners taking it on willingly.

    From US perspective, an obvious question might be property relations. As it turns out, this is not an important reason for the new registered cohabitation law. Estonian current marriage law already lets parties to choose what kind of property regime they should have; the options are joint property, separate property, and something called ‘settlement for increase of property’ which I do not fully understand but which appears to be geared towards families in which trade in real estate or other capital goods is common and getting both parties’ written agreement for all transactions would be too cumbersome. (In particular, I do not understand why this might be preferable to having a jointly owned limited liability corporation, assigning the husband or wife as its officer, and managing the business transactions under the corporate vehicle.)

    One interesting way in which the difference between marriage and cohabitation appears in Estonian legal practice is changing the last name. Under Estonian law, name changes are not a right, and a person needs to petition the government for a name change and specify the reason. The law suggests some ‘good’ reasons (such as an immigrant taking on an Estonian-sounding name in order to further integrate) and ‘bad’ reasons (such as a person taking on a name that is very common in Estonia). The current public policy is that adopting the last name of a cohabitating partner is a ‘bad’ reason and such name changes are not granted, under the theory that name-changing for this purpose is a facet of marriage, so when people want to have a common name, they should marry — which, obviously, does not satisfy same-sex people as long as same-sex marriages are prohibited.

  13. Andres Soolo says

    Careful recreational linguistics shows that Estonian Boolean values are borrowed from Japan and turned on their head: the affirmative ‘jah’ corresponds to はい, and the negative ‘ei’ corresponds to いいえ.