LGBT rights in Latvia

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LGBT rights in Latvia
Location of  Latvia  (dark green)– in Europe  (light green & dark grey)– in the European Union  (light green)  –  [Legend]
Location of  Latvia  (dark green)

– in Europe  (light green & dark grey)
– in the European Union  (light green)  –  [Legend]

Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1992
Gender identity/expression -
Military service Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation protection in employment (see below)
Family rights
Recognition of
relationships
No recognition of same-sex couples.
Restrictions:
Same-sex marriage constitutionally banned.
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] In November 2014 the foreign minister Edgars Rinkēvičs publically came out via Twitter.[2]

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Laws regarding same-sex partnerships in Europe
  Same-sex marriage
  Other type of partnership
  Unregistered cohabitation
  Unrecognized
  Constitution limits marriage to opposite-sex couples

Includes laws that have not yet gone into effect.

In 1992, soon after Latvia regained independence from the Soviet Union, homosexuality was decriminalised.[3] The age of consent is 16 regardless of gender and/or sexuality.[4]

Gender identity/expression[edit]

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.[5]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

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.[6] 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."[7] 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."[8]

Public opinion[edit]






Circle frame.svg

Support for same-sex marriage (2006 poll)[9]

  Totally against (59%)
  Tend to be against (18%)
  Tend to be for (13%)
  Totally for (3%)
  Don't know (7%)






Circle frame.svg

Support for same-sex adoption (2006 poll)[9]

  Totally against (66%)
  Tend to be against (16%)
  Tend to be for (9%)
  Totally for (2%)
  Don't know (7%)

A Eurobarometer survey published on December 2006 showed that 12% of Latvians surveyed support same-sex marriage and 8% support same-sex adoption (EU-wide average 44% and 32%).[9]

Adoption and family planning[edit]

See also: LGBT parenting

Latvian law allows any person over 25 to adopt. However persons who are not married to each other may not adopt the same child.[10] 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.

Military service[edit]

Homosexuals are not officially banned from military service.

Discrimination protections[edit]

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.[11]

Living conditions[edit]

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.[12][13] Such popularly-held anti-gay sentiments have recently been increasingly exploited by various religious groups[14][15] and politicians.[6]

Lesbians and gays are often attacked in the streets or in the meeting places. Lesbians and gays can make no criminal charge against their attackers other than "hooliganism".[16]

In 2002, Māris Sants, an openly gay minister, was defrocked and excommunicated from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia.[17][18] Archbishop Jānis Vanags later declared in a public statement, "Why Māris Sants was fired",[19] 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.[20] This case helped to create a public debate in Latvia regarding the need for legislation to protect LGBT persons from discrimination by employers.

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.[21] 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.[22]

LGBT rights movement in Latvia[edit]

Following public manifestations of homophobia surrounding Riga Pride in 2005,[23] some members of the LGBT community, their friends, and family members united to found the organisation Mozaīka[24] 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.

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (since 1992)
Equal age of consent Yes
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only Yes (since 2006)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriage No (constitutional ban since 2006)
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military Yes
Right to change legal gender Yes
Access to IVF for lesbians Yes
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples Yes
MSMs allowed to donate blood Yes [25]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tapinsh, Aleks (4 June 2007). "Homophobic Attitudes Remain Entrenched". Transitions Online. Retrieved 20 February 2008. 
  2. ^ Gay rights in eastern Europe just took a big step forward, The Washington Post, 6 November 2014, accessed 9 November 2014
  3. ^ ILGA-Europe, country page for Latvia (accessed 13 May 2007).
  4. ^ National Laws - Legislation of INTERPOL member states on sexual offences against children - Latvia - Lettonie - Letonia
  5. ^ http://www.lv.lv/index.php?menu=doc&id=201514
  6. ^ a b Laura Sheeter, "Latvia defies EU over gay rights", BBC News website, 16 June 2006.
  7. ^ http://www.saeima.lv/LapasEnglish/Constitution_Visa.htm
  8. ^ http://www.saeima.lv/Likumdosana_eng/likumdosana_satversme.html
  9. ^ a b c "EUROBAROMETER 66 FIRST RESULTS". TNS. European Commission. December 2006. p. 80. Retrieved 6 August 2014. 
  10. ^ http://www.likumi.lv/doc.php?id=225418
  11. ^ The text of these amendments is available online from the official website of the Saeima and the portal POLITIKA.LV.
  12. ^ nopride.lv, "The Homosexual Movement And Pedophilia" (accessed 13 May 2007).
  13. ^ Gunta Briede, fragments of an interview with psychologist and LGBT rights activist Jolanta Cihanoviča (Latvian), DELFI.lv, 2 September 2005 (accessed 13 May 2007).
  14. ^ "High Profile Meeting". New Generation Church. 10 March 2007. Retrieved 18 March 2008. 
  15. ^ Tony Grew, Cardinal: homosexuality a form of prostitution, Pink News, 9 May 2007 (accessed 6 June 2007)
  16. ^ ILGA-Europe, Euro-Letter 41, May 1996.
  17. ^ GayRussia.ru, "Latvian Priest strongly supports the Riga Gay Pride", interview with M. Sants, 17 July 2006 (accessed 13 May 2007).
  18. ^ Barbara Oertel, "Der lange Marsch zum Coming-out" (German), interview with M. Sants, Die Tageszeitung, 23 July 2005 (accessed 13 May 2007).
  19. ^ 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. 
  20. ^ Juris Lavrikovs, "Leading Latvian pastor excommunicated from the church for supporting gays", ILGA-Europe website, 17 November 2005 (accessed 13 May 2007).
  21. ^ ILGA-Latvia Survey Working Group, poll conducted 1–28 February 2007. From ILGA-Latvia website (Latvian) (accessed 13 May 2007).
  22. ^ 365gay.com
  23. ^ "Protests disrupt Latvia gay march", bbc.co.uk, 23 July 2005.
  24. ^ Mozaīka English-language homepage
  25. ^ http://www.vadc.gov.lv/anketas/donora.php?bl=1&setlang=lv

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]