The president of Estonia has denounced the “simply revolting” views of a senior minister who declared that the LGBT+ community should “run to Sweden”.
Interior minister Mart Helme is leader of the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE), which has drafted a bill proposing a referendum to define marriage as a union of a man and a woman in the Estonian constitution.
Helme later claimed his words had been “misinterpreted”, but Estonia’s liberal conservative president Kersti Kaljulaid was nevertheless quick to condemn him in the strongest possible terms.
The minister was trying to provoke and divide the country with “evil and hatred”, she said, which she found “simply revolting”.
“I do not understand interior minister Mart Helme’s undisguised hostility towards our society,” she said on Saturday (October 17). “We are talking about our own people — our police officers and teachers, our creative people and builders, our neighbours, co-workers, friends. Strangers, too, but still our people.
“Dividing and classifying them as correct and incorrect, us and them, on the basis of sexual orientation, skin colour, or any other characteristic, is unacceptable, contrary to the spirit of our constitution and also humanly simply revolting.
She continued by admitting that she was “ashamed and sad” that the people of Estonia must once again learn they have a government minister for whom human dignity “is less important than his right to use his position of power to demean others”.
“Evil and hatred can never be a political agenda, where we think it is the policy of one party and live on. The moment we normalise evil, we occupy ourselves,” she concluded.
Estonian minister say gay people should ‘run to Sweden’.
Helme had claimed that marriage equality posed a threat to Estonia’s very future.
“[The referendum] is important for all people, because without marriage, without women and men having children, there is no future,” he said. “We want the state to be preserved, and it cannot be preserved without children and without morality.”
“What, will gay people attack and flood the Estonian nation?” asked the interviewer for Deutsche Welle.
“Let them run to Sweden. Everyone there treats them more politely,” Helme replied. “I really am not friendly to them.”
When the minister was accused of homophobia, he retorted: “It is not homophobia. I would say that those people who call our referendum unnecessary are heterophobes. They are getting into the bedrooms of heterosexuals. They do it, not us.
“If they can do their homo propaganda, we can do other propaganda as well.”
The Estonian prime minister Jüri Ratas, leader of the more centrist Estonian Centre Party, joined the president in condemning Helme’s views.
He reminded the minister that Estonian constitution made it clear that all people were equal in the eyes of the law, and that no one should be discriminated against. He said it also forbids incitement to discrimination or hatred.
In light of this, and the promise of the coalition agreement to follow these values, the minister’s comments were “unequivocally reprehensible”.
He later reassured Estonians that Helme’s hateful words were nothing more than rhetoric and that his party that was not implemented in any concrete, practical way.