Estonia’s parliament has narrowly passed legislation to legalise gay partnerships, making it the first former Soviet republic to do so.
In a 40-38 vote, politicians voted in favour of a civil partnership act that recognises the civil unions of all couples regardless of gender. Twenty-three politicians were absent or abstained in the third and final reading of the bill.
The new law comes into force in 2016.
Estonia, which like Baltic neighbours Latvia and Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union for almost five decades, is deemed the most Western-oriented of the former republics ruled by Moscow.
The Estonian Human Rights Centre hailed the law as “historic”, saying it would send a strong message to neighbouring Russia, which passed what it called “a draconian anti-gay law” last year.