Latvia archbishop calls for legal framework for gay couples

Latvia’s archbishop called Tuesday to create a legal framework for homosexual couples, but also for other people hoping to live together, over and above a traditional marriage.

“We should reject all ideologies and create a real legal framework that protects all members of society,” Zbignevs Stankevics said at a parliamentary hearing.

The archbishop’s speech comes after a historic decision by Latvia’s constitutional court in November which ruled that the term family was not equivalent to that of marriage.

The court said family can include a broader range of relations than a simple heterosexual marriage between two people of the opposite sex.

“There is a polarisation of opinions: on one hand, signatures are collected to permit gay mariage. On the other hand, there are actions underway against that. But we must look for ways to unite society, not divide it,” the archbishop said.

“We are looking for proposals that are not tarnished by any ideological or religious question. We are not questioning the concept of the traditional family but we are speaking of mechanisms of protections for these relations, including between people of the same sex, which escapes the definition of traditional marriage,” he said.

He said couples who give a declaration of a “common household,” which can also include elderly widowed people who live together, should benefit from legal protection.

The Lithuanian constitution defines marriage as one of a “union between a man and a woman.”

On Tuesday, Latvia’s Catholic bishops sent a letter to President Egils Levits and parliament speaker Inara Murniece asking not to change the legal definition of marriage but  to legalise other forms of relations that can benefit from legal protection.