Approximately 1,000 people on 11 June attended the Tartu Pride in the namesake Estonian town to show support for the LGBT+ community, while gay rights in Estonia are still lagging way behind western Europe and even some traditionally Catholic Latin American countries.
About 1,000 people from the LGBT+ community and their supporters marched from Vanemuise Park to Tartu’s Town Hall Square, where speeches were given among others by Brian Roraff, the temporary deputy assistant US ambassador to Estonia, Ingrid Tersman, the Swedish ambassador, and Ross Allen, the British ambassador in Tallinn.
In addition to the Estonian and Latvian LGBT+ organisations, the march was attended by some foreign diplomats as well as representatives of three Estonian political parties – the Social Democrats, Estonia 200 and the Estonian Greens.
The Tartu Pride was dedicated to the Estonian LGBT+ history, as this year marks 30 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Estonia after the country restored its independence in 1991. The marchers and speakers asked, why the state had done so little to ensure the well-being of LGBT+ people in such a long time. The march’s slogan was: “How long can we wait?”
The slogan pointed to the need for societal and legislative change – as Estonia has still not properly legislated even the civil partnership bill, let alone same-sex marriage. Even though the governing Reform Party – that has been in the coalition government for 18 years of the past 23 years – claims to be a “liberal” political party, it’s anything but liberal, with many of its MPs having conservative leanings and are opposed to giving the LGBT+ community equal rights with the rest of the society.
The far-right Estonian Conservative People’s Party, currently in opposition, is openly hostile against the LGBT+ community; the conservative Isamaa is equally opposed; and the Centre Party, recently booted out from the government, is a populist bunch that has never even had a coherent view on the matter. The Social Democrats is the only party in the current parliament that has consistently supported LGBT+ rights, albeit not forcefully enough. The Estonian Greens and Estonia 200 that have proclaimed support for same-sex marriage in Estonia, are not in the parliament.
In comparison, same-sex marriage is legally performed and recognised (nationwide or in some parts) in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, the UK, the US and Uruguay. In Switzerland, same-sex marriage will be performed from 1 July 2022.
The Tartu Pride was organised by the NGO Tartu LGBT+, Tartu-based community organisation Vikerruum, and the Estonian LGBT Association and supported by the US Embassy in Estonia and the Danish-owned Nordea Bank.
Kaisa Linn, the CEO of NGO Tartu LGBT+, said in a statement she “was delighted with the large crowd”. “Emotionally it is very fulfilling and breathtaking to see that you are not alone. That you are not alone in thinking that something needs to change. It gives you the strength to go on despite the oppression,” she said.