MPs in Latvia have passed an amendment to their constitution barring gay marriages from taking place.

65 MPs voted in favour of the change, six voted against the change whilst nine abstained from voting.

Gay marriages have been illegal under civil law in Latvia since 1993 but the constitutional amendment ensures that any future recognition of gay relationships will be hard.

The amended constitution now reads: “the State protects and support marriage – a union between a man and a woman, family, rights of parents and children. The State provides special protection to disabled children, those children left without parents’ and children who suffered from violence.”

Homosexuality has been a major political issue in the new EU member state since the country’s first gay pride march was held in Riga during July of this year.

Patricia Prendiville, Executive Director of ILGA-Europe (International Lesbian and Gay Alliance) branded the move as homophobic: “We are appalled and seriously concerned with these homophobic developments in Latvia. As an EU member state, Latvia is acting contradictory to and disrespectfully to the principles of equality and non-discrimination agreed and confirmed by various EU treaties.

“Not only has Latvia now a discriminatory constitutional provision motivated solely by homophobia, but Latvia is still the only EU member state which did not ban sexual orientation discrimination in employment as required by the EU employment equality directive.”

The amendment to the constitution must now be signed by the country’s President, Vaira Vike Freiberga. Ms Freiburga had previously not supported the change but Latvian analysts say it will be hard for her to refuse considering the support it received in Parliament.