This is not the right time to amend constitution - PM Karins

  • 2021-01-11
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - This is not the right time to amend the constitution, commenting on the National Alliance's proposal to define family in the constitution as an entity formed by a man and a woman, Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins (New Unity) said Monday. 

Asked to comment on constitutional amendments proposed by the National Alliance, the prime minister said that he does not know how the New Unity group in the Saeima will vote on the matter.

However, voicing his personal opinion, Karins said that the National Alliance's proposal is "untimely and out of place".

The prime minister believes that Latvia has more urgent issues to tackle, namely, the Covid-19 pandemic, vaccination and stimulation of the economy. "This is a wrong time to start a debate on the constitutional amendments," Karins said.

As reported, Saeima members representing the National Alliance have tabled amendments to the constitution to define family as an entity formed by a man and a woman.

The National Alliance believes that the constitution needs a more specific definition of family after the Constitutional Court ruled on November 12 that households formed by same-sex partners should also be recognized as families, which the state has the obligation to protect and support like any other families.

The National Alliance considers this to be an arbitrary interpretation of the term 'family', contravening Article 110 of the constitution and the general public's understanding of what family is.

In the draft legislation submitted to the Saeima, the National Alliance proposes stipulating that the state protects and supports marriage - a union of a man and a woman, family which is based on marriage and formed by a mother (woman) and father (man), and that the state has a special obligation to support children with disabilities, parentless children and children who have suffered violence.

The bill thus outlines three possible ways in which a family can be formed: first - as a result of marriage; second - as a result of blood kinship and third - as a result of adoption, which in legal terms is an equivalent of blood kinship.

To prevent interpretations of the term 'parents', the draft legislation puts a special emphasis on a child's rights to grow up in a family that is based on a union of a mother (woman) and a father (man). This, however, does not mean that the family ceases to exist as a result of a death or departure of one of the parents. Instead, it means that a same-sex couple cannot be regarded as parents, according to the National Alliance says.

The National Alliance also claims that the Constitutional Court's ruling of November 12 is already restricting the freedom of expression for the part of society that wants the definition of family to be protected from such interpretations.

As reported, the Constitutional Court in November ruled unconstitutional the regulation that does not allow the same-sex partner of a child's mother to take a parental leave after the birth of the child.

The case was heard on the basis of an application by a private individual. A child was born to a same-sex couple, after which the mother's partner wished to exercise the right to take a leave of ten calendar days, as provided for the Constitution. However, the aforementioned provision only grants this right to a child’s father, but not to the female partner of a child’s birth mother, even though in the given situation she is actually one of the new-born child’s parents.

The applicant of the claim said that the system that was established in the state is historically only meant to ensure social protection of heterosexual couples and their children. Therefore, the contested provision allegedly infringes on the applicant’s fundamental rights as enshrined in the first sentence of Article 110 of the Constitution.

Lauris Liepa, a lawyer of LGBT rights group Mozaika, said that a discriminatory treatment of same-sex partners with children is unacceptable because both partners in the union should be considered the child's parents.

During hearing of the case, the Saeima voiced a stance that the contested norm is in compliance with the Constitution. Representatives of the Saeima and the Justice Ministry said that, according to the law, there is only one parent in same-sex couples.

Welfare Ministry's representative Maris Badovskis said that the state has no duty to ensure ten-day leave for a person who is not the father of the child.

Meanwhile, Ombudsman's Office representative Laila Gravere said that the issue should be viewed in broader terms than just in respect to same-sex couples. If a child has no father, or the father due to some reason is not able to support the mother and the child, the law should provide the rights to another person to take the parental leave and help the mother care for the child.