Same-sex Marriage Concluded Abroad Recognized by Appeals Court in Estonia

An appeals court in Estonia has overturned the ruling of a first-tier court and ordered the Harju County Government to enter a marriage concluded between two men in Sweden into the national population register, gay rights nonprofit MTÜ SEKY said on Tuesday, 24 January 2017.

In 2015, the county government refused to enter into Estonia’s central population register the marriage of Ats Joorits, a Swedish national residing in Estonia, to another man concluded in Sweden. The county government refused on the grounds that Estonian laws do not recognize same-sex marriage and that applying the law of another country would manifestly run counter to the general principles of Estonian law and public order, the nonprofit said.

Joorits then turned to the first-tier Tallinn Administrative Court, which upheld the stance of the county government.

Following Joorits’ appeal to Tallinn Circuit Court, however, the appeals court ruled that all marriages concluded in another country must be entered into the Estonian population register when a person takes up residence in Estonia or is granted Estonian citizenship.

“That Estonian law does not provide for this kind of marriage does not mean that Swedish law must be deemed as being in contradiction with public order,” it stands in the circuit court’s decision. “A contradiction with substantial principles of Estonian law or public order would arise first and foremost if the application of the law of a foreign country brought with it a contradiction with the general principles of the Estonian Constitution or norms of penal law or resulted in the infringement of fundamental rights. Recognition of marriages of persons living in another country that are consistent with that country’s laws is not indicative of any of these cases.”

Reimo Mets, the lawyer for MTÜ SEKY who represented Joorits in both tiers of court, said that while Estonian authorities had thus far refused to register same-sex marriages on the grounds that Estonia’s laws did not allow for it and it was technically not possible, the circuit court’s decision now makes it mandatory for the Estonian state to do it.

The county government did not contest the court’s decision and it became final on Dec. 28 of last year. On Tuesday, the Harju County Government entered Joorits’ marriage into the population register, spokespeople for the nonprofit said.

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