Equality Bodies

LATVIA: 21st century family requires appropriate legal framework

The 21st century family no longer relies solely on sexual or blood relations, but on how people choose their co-habitation. Marriage is not the only form of family. The Ombudsman of the Republic of Latvia calls for a unified understanding of the concept and protection of the family included in the Constitution (Satversme) and to provide a legal framework for recognizing various forms of family in Latvia.

The modern family is a social and economic unit, where the aspect of sexuality or gender is no longer pre-dominant. The state should respect and establish a legal framework to protect both its marriage-based families and those where people choose to live together for economic, social or sexual relations without marriage.

Article 110 of the Latvian Constitution provides that the state shall protect and support marriage – the union between a man and a woman, the family, the rights of parents and children. Consequently, the Constitution already separates marriage from the family in its broadest sense.

Ombudsman’s call to create a legal framework for various forms of the family is aimed at respecting the objective reality and the adjustment of the legal framework, which would have a positive impact on many residents of Latvia. The aim is not to focus on the abolition of the notion of marriage, the union between man and woman, enshrined in the Constitution.

I think it’s time for politicians to respect the fact that a significant part of society is experiencing the need to arrange the concept of family at a national level”, said the Ombudsman. He further call to view this broader – ”it is not merely the issue for same-sex couples, it affects a significant part of society. The reality of Latvia is that more than half of the children are born in families where parents are not married. There are situations where people choose to build a family, if you want, call it a household, because it is more economically viable. For example, two ladies came to me for a consultation, explaining, that to ensure decent living, they had started living together in an apartment that belonged to one of them, but lived on the means obtained from selling the apartment of the other lady. And there are more than one such example. One of possible solutions for a legal framework of a family could be a notarized act with a public statement in the official publisher “Latvijas Vēstnesis” that these two people have identified themselves as a family,” suggests Ombudsman Juris Jansons.

Currently, several legislative acts consolidate a wider concept of “family”, but the content of the concept varies. Already in 2012, the Ombudsman sent recommendations to the government and the parliament on the necessary amendments to the law that would address issues related to the understanding of the term “family” in various areas. For example, concerning social rights, in relation to procedural norms – the right to not testify, etc. However, the proposed amendments have been left without consideration.

In a judgement from 2012 of the Senate of the Supreme Court, the need for the legislator to decide on the lawfulness of a recognized partnership, in other words, whether the actual co-habitation of two persons has the same legal consequences as marriage, was also indicated.

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