TALLINN - The Estonian government on Thursday approved a controversial cohabitation bill that regulates finance, inheritance, care and visitation rights for cohabiting couples regardless of their sex, Estonian Public Broadcasting (ERR) reported.
The bill sparked heated public debate, during which Estonian religious and conservative campaigners demanded a referendum on the issue. They accused the initiators of the bill were undermining family values, while proponents pointed out that the majority of children in Estonia were already living with single parents or unmarried couples.
The report said that the bill takes into account the position of the Chancellor of Justice Indrek Teder, who said that current laws do not offer enough legal protection to cohabiting couples and that same sex couples were entitled to the protection of the same basic rights. The lack of legal regulation therefore violated the constitution in her opinion.
Cohabitation can be registered at a notary by a couple where at least one party is an Estonian resident, and neither is married or under another valid cohabitation contract. The cohabitation contract will be included in the population register and marital property register.
If approved by the parliament, the bill should enter into force on Jan. 1, 2015.