LGBT rights in Latvia
|LGBT rights in Latvia|
|Same-sex sexual activity legal status||Legal since 1992|
|Gender identity/expression||Transgender people allowed to change gender, require surgery|
|Military service||Gays, lesbians and bisexuals allowed to serve openly|
|Discrimination protections||Sexual orientation protection in employment (see below)|
|No recognition of same-sex couples|
|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. Same-sex couples are unable to marry or adopt. Latvia does not recognise registered partenships, either.
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 yet reached a high level of tolerance. In November 2014, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs came out via Twitter, becoming the first openly LGBT elected official in the country.
A 2016 index showed that Latvia was the worst EU country to be gay.
- 1 Law regarding same-sex sexual activity
- 2 Recognition of same-sex relationships
- 3 Adoption and family planning
- 4 Discrimination protections
- 5 Gender identity and expression
- 6 Military service
- 7 Living conditions
- 8 LGBT rights movement in Latvia
- 9 Public opinion
- 10 Summary table
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 External links
Law regarding same-sex sexual activity
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."
On 30 January 2015, an MP submitted a proposal for a partnership law, which would have allowed "any two persons" to register a partnership. This would have given cohabiting couples almost the same benefits and obligations as marriage. The proposal was rejected by the Legal Affairs Committee on 24 February 2015. The Committee questioned the intent on changing the Civil Code, focusing on the 2006 constitutional same-sex marriage ban and how far-reaching the benefits of a "marriage-like" partnership would be, while suggesting that any new form of relationships may need to start from the ground up. Veiko Spolītis, who submitted the proposal, clarified that attaching a gender-neutral partnership provision to the existing code would be the fastest way for the bill to become law. Despite the setback, Spolītis has stated that discussions on the issue shall continue nevertheless. Fellow Unity Party member, Ilze Viņķele, has since promised to develop and submit a brand new draft law. In March 2015, a public petition was started by minor party "For Development of Latvia" for adopting a partnership law, which would provide for the recognition of registered and unregistered partnerships between couples of any sex.
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.
In September 2006, Latvia's Parliament, the Saeima, passed amendments to the Labour Code prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the workplace. The Saeima had initially omitted such protections, but President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga refused to sign the bill until it was added.
Gender identity and expression
It is possible to surgically change gender in Latvia and to legally change identity to reflect this. Latvian law does not define "sex change", but a medical certificate must be submitted to the authorities in order to legally change gender. 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 their legal sex was changed after a partial sex change, took legal action. The Supreme Court of Latvia ruled in 2008, that in this 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 legislative proposal to amend laws, which would have made it mandatory for transgender people to undergo sterilization (which could have caused further legal complications) in order to change their legal gender. The amendments were, however, rejected by the Saeima (Parliament).
Lesbians, gays and bisexuals are allowed to serve openly in the Latvian Armed Forces.
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 few publicly prominent persons who openly identify themselves as gay or lesbian, for example Latvian American journalist Kārlis Streips, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs, 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 a linked phenomena. Such popularly-held anti-gay sentiments had grown increasingly by 2008, 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.
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 2005 where counter-protestors greatly outnumbered Pride attendees and in 2006 where the event was banned. Pride 2007 was peaceful and the 500 pride-goers outnumbered around 100 counter-protestors. However, a simultaneous anti-Pride event attracted around 1,000 attendees. In 2015, Europride took place in Riga attracting around 5,000 participants, while a few dozens participated in a protest meeting against the event.
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.
The 2015 Eurobarometer found that 19% of Latvians support same-sex marriage (EU average: 61%). Additionally, 42% of Latvians believed that gay and lesbian people should enjoy the same rights as straight people and 23% believed that there is nothing wrong about a relationship between two people of the same sex (EU average: 71% and 67%, respectively).
|Same-sex sexual activity legal||(Since 1992)|
|Equal age of consent||(Since 1992)|
|Anti-discrimination laws in employment only||(Since 2006)|
|Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services|
|Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech)|
|Same-sex marriage||(Constitutional ban since 2006)|
|Recognition of same-sex couples|
|Adoption by single LGBT person|
|Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples|
|Joint adoption by same-sex couples|
|Gays, lesbians and bisexuals allowed to serve openly in the military|
|Right to change legal gender|
|Conversion therapy banned on minors|
|Access to IVF for lesbians|
|Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples||(Also banned for heterosexual couples)|
|MSMs allowed to donate blood|||
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