On October 14th, 2015 the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania rejected a bill on registered partnership that had been drafted by the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania and proposed to introduce the institution of registered partnership for different-sex couples. 27 members of the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania voted in favor of the proposed legislation, 25 voted against and 16 abstained.
The representatives of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania claim that the proposed legislation acknowledges the existing forms of cohabitation, while the opponents insist that the civil partnership is “an encroachment on the institution of marriage” and is “just one step away from legalizing same-sex partnerships”.
The Minister of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania, Juozas Bernatonis, who presented the bill in the Parliament, maintained that the popular support for the different-sex partnership was “overwhelming”. According to Mr. Bernatonis, the goal of the proposed law would be to “protect the interests of cohabiting partners and children born out of the wedlock”. The proposed law, however, specifically outlines that it would be applicable only to different-sex couples.
On the October 14th, 2015 the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania also considered a proposal by a group of legislators to exclude the possibility of registered partnerships from the Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuania all together. 33 members of the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania voted in favor of the proposal, 11 voted against and 18 abstained. The proposal will be further considered in the Parliamentary Committees.
Currently the Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuania, which came into force in 2001, provides a form of cohabitation without marriage as a precondition of registering a partnership, but in reality the provision is not implementable, because the law on registered partnerships is yet to be adopted.
In the meanwhile, nine MPs from the Liberal Movement and the Social Democratic Party registered an alternative bill in late March, 2015, proposing gender neutral registered partnership scheme. On May 6th, 2015 the Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs decided that the proposed Partnership Act does not violate the Constitution.
At the moment Lithuania, together with other 7 Member States of the EU, does not legally recognize same-sex relationships. The legal status of cohabitating same-sex couples is not defined and they cannot make use of opportunities available for married couples, ranging from inheritance rights to receiving information about partner’s health condition at medical establishments in case of an illness.
“While members of the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania debate on whether same-sex couples have a right to registered partnerships, those who are not yet able to legally formalize their relationships continue to experience financial losses and feel humiliated by the society. Same-sex couples living together, whose status is not legally recognized, are barred from a number of rights enjoyed by the spouses. It is high time the legislators ensured the fundamental rights for all Lithuanian citizens irrespective of their sexual orientation,” emphasized Vladimir Simonko, the Executive Director of the National LGBT* rights organization LGL.