Minister of the Interior Mart Helme (Conservative People’s Party – EKRE) gave a long interview to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle where ha said why marriage should only be a union between a man and a woman and admitted he looks unfavorably upon sexual minorities.
Deutsche Welle journalist Konstantin Eggert asked Helme about Estonia’s upcoming marriage referendum. The minister emphasized that the national conservatives’ stance is adamant. The law must state clearly and unambiguously that marriage is between a man and a woman. “If you don’t like that, let us denounce the Registered Partnership Act. That they are not willing to do, which means that our referendum is necessary. We want the ensure the survival of the country, but it cannot survive without children and morality,” Helme said.
The journalist then inquired whether there was any danger of gays flooding the Estonian people. “Let them run to Sweden. They have everything they need there and people look upon them politely,” Helme replied. “Do you view them unfavorably?” Eggert then asked. “I, indeed, look upon them unfavorably,” Helme confirmed. He said it was not homophobia. “I would say that the people who maintain our referendum is unnecessary are heterophobes. They are climbing in bed with heterosexuals. They do, while we are not poking our noses in their beds. If they can pursue gay propaganda, then we can pursue our own different kind of propaganda,” the Estonian interior minister said.
EKRE’s coalition partners took to social media to comment after letting the interview sink in. Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) reminded Helme of their coalition agreement. “We have agreed to represent everyone in Estonia and promote a caring and tolerant society the members of which feel safe. We have promised to condemn rhetoric that seeks to split society. Considering all of these things, the answers you gave to the journalist can only be condemned,” Ratas noted.
The PM reminded Helme of the obligation of members of the government to make efforts so that everyone in Estonia could live better tomorrow than they did today and for the Estonian people, culture, language and state to endure throughout the ages. “This cannot be achieved through harsh words or unfriendly demeanor but only through understanding, cooperation and kindness,” Ratas added.
Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center) said that Helme’s attack on sexual minorities makes it seem like he is speaking for all heterosexual people and families. He explained to Helme that society is made up of different people and families: heterosexual and homosexual, families with a single or multiple parents etc. Every person’s right and freedom to decide their life partners and family forms a part of the values the Estonian state is built on. “He has no right or justification,” the social minister said. “No politician can ever use their position of power to persecute a social group,” Tanel Kiik said.
Isamaa MP Siim-Valmar Kiisler described Helme’s utterance as embarrassing beyond words.
Kaja Kallas, chairman of opposition leader the Reform Party, said that harming Estonia’s reputation is now the only substance of the coalition. “Mart Helme’s answers to Deutsche Welle come as yet another example of why EKRE should never have been included in the coalition. Threats, lies and damage to Estonia’s reputation is the sole content of the current coalition,” Kallas finds.
“The prime minister can, in a tragicomical move, continue quoting the coalition agreement that promised us a coherent society until the cows come home. That text and the prime minister’s words are long since empty. There will be a new week, a new scandal and a new hollow apology from PM Jüri Ratas,” Kallas said, adding that she still hopes Ratas will get his act together over the weekend and remove Helme from office in a statesmanlike move.
“In any normal government, the expression of such words would result in the minister’s immediate sacking as we are now talking about incitement of hatred and efforts to undermine the Estonian state on multiple points,” Reform Party deputy chairman Jürgen Ligi found. He said that once again, it is not about the rhetoric. “These positions are carefully weighed and rehearsed in kolkhoz cultural centers, with the Helmes believing that they reserve the right to be abnormal,” Ligi said. According to the politician, EKRE are counting on their misanthropy to bring them votes and feel that the Estonian state and the rest of its people do not matter.
Helme’s answers were also criticized by President Kersti Kaljulaid who said that a minister who shares such convictions is unfit to serve in the government of the Republic of Estonia. She added that she has met with PM Ratas to discuss Helme’s future in the government.
Chairman of the Conservative People’s Party (EKRE), Mart Helme’s son Martin Helme said that his father’s answers given in Russian were mistranslated and that Helme really said that “gays can run around in Sweden” and has not suggested he wants homosexual people to leave Estonia.