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Estonia Is First Ex-Soviet State To Approve Same-Sex Partnerships

Estonia has become the first former Soviet republic to legalize same-sex partnerships.

In a narrow, 40-38 vote, parliament approved a civil partnership act that recognizes civil unions between couples regardless of gender.

Twenty-three lawmakers were absent or abstained in the third and final reading of the bill.

The law comes into force in 2016.

It allows same-sex couples to adopt the children of either partner but does not expressly grant them the right to adopt other children.

The Estonian Human Rights Center said it would send a strong message to neighboring Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law last year banning the spread of gay "propaganda" among minors, which critics say amounts to a ban on gay-rights rallies and encourages prejudice against homosexuals.

Now an EU member, Estonia chafed under Moscow's control for nearly half a century before the Soviet collapse of 1991.

Based on reporting by AP and RIA Novosti