Same-sex registered partners granted right to share a surname

  • 2023-02-23
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN – A same-sex couple in registered partnership who initially received a negative response from the Ministry of the Interior and then went to court finally received the right to bear a common surname, the Estonian daily Postimees writes.

More than a year ago, the Estonian Human Rights Center was approached by a couple who, after signing a registered partnership agreement, wanted to share the last name of one partner in order to have children together and have a common family identity. The Ministry of the Interior refused to grant the name and the couple went to court.

The Human Rights Center has now announced that the couple became the first registered partnership family with partners of the same sex, to whom the state granted a common surname.

As a result of the meetings and negotiations held in January of this year, the Ministry of the Interior reviewed the practice of granting a common surname contained in the Names Act, and on Jan. 27, Minister of the Interior Lauri Laanemets signed a protocol according to which a registered partnership contract is the basis for applying for a common surname for all cohabiting families.

The minister's decision also meant that the couple's legal journey ended with a compromise between the Ministry of the Interior and the family. In addition, the state must reimburse all costs incurred during the litigation. The vital statistics office informed the couple about the official name change on Feb. 19.

The Human Rights Center said that although the minister's decision deserves recognition, any subsequent interior minister can establish and implement new administrative practices.

"Although we are very happy with the interior minister's decision and for the family, in the light of the positive news, a court process that would have created an important precedent was interrupted. True security and respect for human rights would still only be brought by a situation where we have a Supreme Court decision regulating the issue, implementing acts of the Registered Partnership Act or marriage equality. We hope that the new composition of the Riigikogu and the subsequent minister of the interior will not force new same-sex couples to go to court and that the state will treat cohabiting families humanely," Kelly Grossthal, head of litigation at the center, said.

According to the center, the complexity of the situation lies in the fact that the current Names Act allows spouses to take a common surname, but the same opportunity is not directly guaranteed to couples who have entered into a registered partnership contract.

The center added that such a situation is not in line with important human rights principles, such as the inviolability of family life and the right to self-determination of the individual. As the people who entered into a registered partnership contract live together as a family and their relationship is essentially no different from that of spouses, the desire of the partners to share a common surname is fully justified and can also be treated as a valid reason under the Names Act.