RIGA - The applause was boisterous. Parliament had just passed a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in its second reading on Dec. 1.
Seventy-three lawmakers voted in favor, three against, while the remaining MPs were either absent or abstained.
As the names of the three MPs who voted against 's Linda Murniece, Inese Krastina, and Madars Lasmanis, all from the center-right New Era party 's were read out, cries of "shame" were heard in the hall.
For the amendment to be added to the Constitution, it must pass three readings, receiving at least 67 votes each time.
The draft amendment says, "The state protects marriage 's a union between a man and a woman, family, the rights of parents and children."
The country's civil code already prohibits same sex marriage, but Latvia's First Party, sponsor of the amendment, has said that it fears that a civil ban does not provide enough protection in the face of coming EU anti-discrimination legislation set to be transposed into Latvian law.
The discussion of gays and gay rights has swelled into a popular political issue, when previously it rarely made headlines. In June of this year, the country's first gay pride parade took place amid a massive police presence necessary to protect the marchers from an angry crowd of thousands.
The parade ended in the city's Anglican Church for an ecumenical service lead by Juris Calitis, dean of the University of Latvia's Theology Faculty. Calitis was thrown out of the Latvian Lutheran Church last month for hosting the service.
Many observers have predicted that, in the run-up to next year's parliamentary elections, some political parties will continue to capitalize on issues related to gays and lesbians.