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  • November 2023: In Latvia, (neo)pagans have a legal right to marry

In Latvia, special legal status is granted to the eight religious communities mentioned in the Civil Law (Section 51): the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Latvian Orthodox Church, the Old Believers, the Methodists, the Baptists, the Seventh Day Adventists and the Believers in Moses (Judaism). The first (neo)pagan group in Latvia, Dievturi – "the keepers of god", was registered in 1926. Over the last decades, attention has been paid to the application of the public rights to (neo)pagan groups requesting parity rights. This call for parity means the requirement to access the same rights and advantages as those enjoyed by so called “traditional denominations.”

On 18 October 2022, the Parliament of Latvia (Saeima) conceptually supported the amendments to the Civil Law proposed by the National Association. On 10 October 2023, the amendments to the Civil Law entered into force. They state that the marriage rite performed by a minister belonging to the Dievturi denomination has legal force. However, the new legal provisions cannot be applied until the law on mutual relations between the state and the Dievturi religious organisation is adopted. Such a condition is required by the related amendments to the law “On the Time of Coming into Force and the Procedures for the Application of the Part on Family Law of the Renewed Civil Law of 1937 of the Republic of Latvia”.

At present, the Civil Law states that a marriage shall be solemnised by the official of a General Registry Office or a minister from the denominations set out in Section 51: “If the persons to be married belong to the Evangelical Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Old Believers, Methodist, Baptist, Seventh Day Adventist or believers in Moses (Judaism) denominations and wish to be married by a minister of their denomination who has the relevant permission from the leaders of the denomination, then they shall be married in accordance with the procedures of the denomination concerned.” The list of religious organisations contained in the new wording of Section 51 of the Civil Law has been supplemented by a reference to Dievturi.

The data received by the Ministry of Justice suggest that there are about 500 Dievturi in Latvia. The documents submitted to the Legal Affairs Committee of the Parliament of Latvia during the examination of the draft law stated that the right to perform the ceremony of marriage will be granted to 17 Dievturi ministers.

D 21 November 2023    AAnita Stasulane

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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