Estonia’s Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELK) has decided to stop registering marriages on behalf of the State after the Baltic nation approved a law that redefines marriage to include same-sex relationships.
The EELK’s official position is that marriage is the union of a man and a woman.
“If we officiate gender-neutral marriages on behalf of the state, while in the church we bless and officiate marriages that are between a man and a woman, are we dealing with two different marriages?” said Archbishop Urmas Viilma.
Minister of Social Protection Signe Riisalo says that churches have the freedom to decide on the issue. The Family Law Act allows clergy to officiate marriages if they have undergone “civil registrar preparation.” According to Riisalo, clergy are not forced to carry out a marriage if they hold objections.
However, Viilma questions the Act’s protections for clergy who want to hold traditional marriage ceremonies.
“Does the law that stipulates that two ‘natural persons’ can marry each other give meaning to marriage so far as the state goes or does the gender of those people marrying each other provide the meaning to marriage?” he asked.