LGBT rights in Latvia
|LGBT rights in Latvia|
|Same-sex sexual activity legal?||Legal since 1992|
|Military service||Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly|
|Discrimination protections||Sexual orientation protection in employment (see below)|
|No recognition of same-sex couples|
|2005 constitutional amendment limits marriage to man/woman|
|Adoption||No joint adoption by same-sex couples|
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Latvia may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity are legal in Latvia, but households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for the same legal protections available to opposite-sex couples.
The democratization process in Latvia has allowed lesbians and gays to establish organizations and infrastructural elements such as bars, clubs, stores, libraries, etc. Cultural, educational and other events can be held, and lifestyles can be freely developed. However, society has not reached a high level of tolerance.
- 1 Law regarding same-sex sexual activity
- 2 Gender identity/expression
- 3 Recognition of same-sex relationships
- 4 Adoption and family planning
- 5 Military service
- 6 Discrimination protections
- 7 Living conditions
- 8 LGBT rights movement in Latvia
- 9 Public opinion
- 10 Summary table
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 Sources
- 14 External links
Law regarding same-sex sexual activity
Male same-sex sexual activity was considered a criminal offence and a mental illness in Latvia during the Soviet period. In 1992, soon after Latvia regained independence from the Soviet Union, homosexuality was decriminalised. The age of consent is 16 regardless of gender and/or sexuality.
It is possible to surgically change gender in Latvia and to legally change identity to reflect this. The Latvian law does not state what constitutes sex change and how it can be proved to authorities. In practice this is proven by an excerpt from a medical record. However in 2004 authorities denied a change of legal identity to a transperson who had undergone a partial sex change. The person, who reported having knowledge of another case in which legal sex was changed after a partial sex change, took legal action. The Supreme court of Latvia ruled in 2008 that in the particular case legal identity should have been changed as the authority had done so in similar cases and the person, already presenting as male, might face a variety of issues having to legally identify as female. This resulted in a 2009 proposal to amend laws with inability to become parent (which could cause further legal complications) listed as sole criteria to prove gender change for persons formally diagnosed with transsexualism by group of doctors. The amendments were, however, overruled by the Saeima.
Recognition of same-sex relationships
Latvia does not recognise same-sex marriage, nor any form of same-sex partnership.
In 2006 Latvia amended its constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage. Article 110 of the Latvian Constitution formerly read, "The State shall protect and support marriage, the family, the rights of parents and rights of the child. The State shall provide special support to disabled children, children left without parental care or who have suffered from violence." The first sentenced of Article 110 was amended to read, "The State shall protect and support marriage – a union between a man and a woman, the family, the rights of parents and rights of the child."
Adoption and family planning
Latvian law allows any person over 25 to adopt. However persons who are not married to each other may not adopt the same child. This means that only one person of an unmarried couple can adopt a child. However, lesbian couples can get access to IVF and assisted insemination treatment.
Homosexuals are not officially banned from military service.
In September 2006, Latvia's parliament, the Saeima, passed amendments to the Labour Code prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in workplace. The Saeima had initially omitted such protection, but President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga refused to sign the bill until it was added.
Only in the capital, Riga, is there a small gay scene. Elsewhere in Latvia, however, the sparse population means there is no gay scene. There are only few people who openly recognize themselves being gay or lesbian, for example journalist Kārlis Streips, and former deputy rector of the Riga Graduate School of Law Linda Freimane.
Most people in Latvia have prejudices against homosexuality, usually rooted in social conservatism and lingering preconceptions dating from the Soviet period. An example of this is the belief that homosexuality and pedophilia are linked phenomena. Such popularly-held anti-gay sentiments have recently been increasingly exploited by various religious groups and politicians.
In 2002, Māris Sants, an openly gay minister, was defrocked and excommunicated from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia. Archbishop Jānis Vanags later declared in a public statement, "Why Māris Sants was fired", that Sants was not removed from office because he was gay, but because he in his sermons publicly promoted, instead of condemning, the "sinful" homosexual "lifestyle." When pastor Juris Cālītis, then also dean of the University of Latvia's Faculty of Theology, not only publicly criticised the improper way in which Sants's case was handled by the Church Synod, but also allowed Sants to co-officiate in a church service, Cālītis, too, was removed from office and expelled from the church by Vanags. This case helped to create a public debate in Latvia regarding the need for legislation to protect LGBT persons from discrimination by employers.
Over the last three years, there have been violent attacks against individuals in lesbian and gay bars and cafes, police representatives have conducted unauthorized raids against such establishments to check documents and search for weapons, during the course of which establishments are often closed down and patrons are humiliated.
Due to prevailing negative attitudes in society, and particularly the violent actions of a vocal anti-LGBT minority (e.g. National Power Unity), there is a fear that further lobbying for the rights of sexual minorities will provoke an even stronger backlash. In a February 2007 survey of 537 LGBT persons in Latvia, 82% of respondents said they were not in favour of holding the planned Riga Pride and Friendship Days 2007, while only 7% felt that these events would help promote tolerance against sexual minorities. Nevertheless, Pride took place in 2007; in contrast with the counterprotestors who greatly outnumbered Pride attendees in 2005, and the banning of Pride ceremonies in 2006, the 2007 Pride was peaceable and the 500 pridegoers outnumbered around 100 counterprotestors. However, a simultaneous anti-Pride event attracted around 1000 attendees.
LGBT rights movement in Latvia
Following public manifestations of homophobia surrounding Riga Pride in 2005, some members of the LGBT community, their friends, and family members united to found the organisation Mozaīka in order to promote tolerance towards sexual minorities and LGBT rights in Latvia's society. In response, an umbrella organisation for co-ordinating anti-LGBT rights activism in Latvia, NoPride, was formed in the run-up to Riga Pride and Friendship Days 2006.
|Same-sex sexual activity legal||Since 1992|
|Equal age of consent|
|Anti-discrimination laws in employment||Since 2006|
|Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services|
|Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech)|
|Recognition of same-sex marriage||Constitutional ban since 2005|
|Recognition of same-sex couples|
|Adoption by single homosexuals|
|Adoption by same-sex couples||Only married couples may adopt|
|Gays allowed to serve in the military|
|Right to change legal gender|
|Access to IVF for lesbians|||
|MSMs allowed to donate blood|||
- Tapinsh, Aleks (4 June 2007). "Homophobic Attitudes Remain Entrenched". Transitions Online. Retrieved 20 February 2008.
- ILGA-Europe, country page for Latvia (accessed 13 May 2007).
- National Laws - Legislation of INTERPOL member states on sexual offences against children - Latvia - Lettonie - Letonia
- Laura Sheeter, "Latvia defies EU over gay rights", BBC News website, 16 June 2006.
- The text of these amendments is available online from the official website of the Saeima and the portal POLITIKA.LV.
- nopride.lv, "The Homosexual Movement And Pedophilia" (accessed 13 May 2007).
- Gunta Briede, fragments of an interview with psychologist and LGBT rights activist Jolanta Cihanoviča (Latvian), DELFI.lv, 2 September 2005 (accessed 13 May 2007).
- "High Profile Meeting". New Generation Church. 10 March 2007. Retrieved 18 March 2008.
- Tony Grew, Cardinal: homosexuality a form of prostitution, Pink News, 9 May 2007 (accessed 6 June 2007)
- ILGA-Europe, Euro-Letter 41, May 1996.
- GayRussia.ru, "Latvian Priest strongly supports the Riga Gay Pride", interview with M. Sants, 17 July 2006 (accessed 13 May 2007).
- Barbara Oertel, "Der lange Marsch zum Coming-out" (German), interview with M. Sants, Die Tageszeitung, 23 July 2005 (accessed 13 May 2007).
- Vanags, Jānis (4 June 2002). "Kādēļ atstādināja Māri Santu" (in Latvian). Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia. Archived from the original on 9 October 2006. Retrieved 31 August 2009.
- Juris Lavrikovs, "Leading Latvian pastor excommunicated from the church for supporting gays", ILGA-Europe website, 17 November 2005 (accessed 13 May 2007).
- ILGA-Latvia Survey Working Group, poll conducted 1–28 February 2007. From ILGA-Latvia website (Latvian) (accessed 13 May 2007).
- "Protests disrupt Latvia gay march", bbc.co.uk, 23 July 2005.
- Mozaīka English-language homepage
- European Commission, Eurobarometer 66: First Results, December 2006.
- Waitt, Gordon (2005). "Sexual Citizenship in Latvia: Geographies of the Latvian Closet" (PDF). Social & Cultural Geography 6 (2): 161–81. doi:10.1080/14649360500074618. Retrieved 13 March 2008.
- Gay.lv, Latvian LGBT portal.
- Amnesty International, "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights in Poland and Latvia", 15 November 2006.
- ILGA-Europe, country page for Latvia.
- ILGA-Europe, "Sexual Orientation Discrimination in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia", Vilnius, 2002.
- M. Sants, "War in Latvia", a presentation to the Lutherans Concerned/North America meeting "Together in Toronto", July 2006.