Lithuania’s Constitutional Court to Decide on the Freedom of Movement of same-sex couples

On September 25th, 2018 the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania began the procedure aimed at determining whether Constitutional provisions regarding freedom of movement of family members apply for same-sex couples.

The case dates back to 2015 when a Belarussian citizen married to a Lithuanian man and applied to the immigration authorities for permission to live together with his spouse in Lithuania. In December 2016, the case was referred to the Constitutional Court after Migration Department refused to issue a residency permit for a Belarussian citizen on the basis of family unification. The Administrative Court of Lithuania ruled that EU law, specifically Directive 2004/38/EC (the so-called “Free Movement Directive”), could not be applied to the particular circumstances of the two men. While the Law on the Legal Status of Aliens in Lithuania does not officially prohibit the reunification of same-sex couples, it is uncertain whether the term “spouse” includes same-sex spouse for the purpose of granting a right of residence to non-EU citizens.

In June 2018, the Court of Justice of the European Union in Coman v. Romania ruled that same-sex couples have a right to reside in any EU Member State regardless of its family law. In light of this, it is believed that the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania will issue a positive decision in the case despite recent attempts to outlaw same-sex unions.

Lithuania remains one of few European countries without any legal recognition of same-sex partnership. A positive ruling would not only play a significant part in providing legal protection afforded to same-sex couples who wish to reside in the country, but also strengthen the Constitutional definition of family based on “stable emotional attachment, mutual understanding, responsibility, respect, co-parenting and similar ties” rather than a marriage between a man and a woman alone.