The Seimas eventually managed to pass the Law on Equal Treatment by which discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and other grounds was banned. Yet, before voting took place, a provision appeared in the bill which allowed non compliance with the equality principle in educational and training institutions of religious communities.
On Tuesday, 64 parliamentarians voted in favour (with 1 vote against and 6 abstentions) of a new wording of the law by which discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, race, nationality, language, origin, social status, faith, belief, views, age, disability, ethnic affiliation, and religion was banned. Its adoption was a close run contest, as before voting only 71 politicians had registered—the least number necessary for adopting a law. Prior to this, only 70 parliamentarians had registered, therefore it was necessary to repeat the procedure.
The Seimas had attempted to adopt amendments to the Law on Equal Treatment twice, yet members of the Conservative party, Labour party and Order party obstructed both votes. All, or the majority of members of these parties had not registered for voting, therefore the bills failed to be approved last Tuesday and Thursday due to a lack of votes.
For the third time members of the Labour party and the “Order and Justice” party did not take part in voting, yet the majority of conservatives voted “for”.
The adoption of the law had a few hurdles to overcome when some members of the Seimas expressed their resentment that discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation was intended to be banned. Previously, such a provision was contained in the draft amendment to the Law on Equal Treatment, yet member of the “Order and Justice” party, Egidijus Klumbys, proposed to eliminate it and prohibit the granting of privileges to a person on the basis of sexual orientation, race, nationality, language, origin, social status, faith, and beliefs or opinions, as is stated in the Constitution.
Lawyers warned that such a regulation would fail to comply with the EU directive which reinforces the general grounds for equal treatment in the occupancy and professional field, and would violate the constitutional principles of legitimate expectations: at present the law prohibits discrimination on the grounds of age, sexual orientation and disability. After these grounds were eventually restored, heated discussions took place in the Seimas session room.
Debates also sparked during the Tuesday session. At the start of the session Mr. Klumbys proposed that the adoption of the Law on Equal Treatment be eliminated from the agenda altogether, since the Statute allegedly did not provide for another vote should an insufficient number of parliamentarians participate in the first vote. Yet, even after the second attempt, the bill was not eliminated.
Subsequently, some members of the Seimas rejected a proposal by conservative member Vilija Aleknaitė-Abramikienė and labour’s Audronė Pitrėnienė to raise children in an environment which fostered the values of a religious society or community in state or private kindergartens, schools, and other educational institutions where ethos is based on religion or faith.
“This means that no free-thinkers will be able to work in Christian schools, whereas only Muslims will be able to work in Muslim schools”, stated Birutė Vėsaitė, a member of the Social Democratic party, as she criticized the proposal.
In turn, member of the Homeland Union faction, Kęstutis Čilinskas, explained that this law is against discrimination in general.
According to liberal member, Gintaras Šileikis, without adopting a sufficiently broad prohibition of discrimination of various groups, representatives of particular society groups would appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. “Let us be civilized, normal Europeans”, the parliamentarian campaigned.
Meanwhile, member of the “Order and Justice” party, Petras Gražulis, caused some offence with respect to homosexuals. According to him, “Lithuania is a “perverted state” since it takes care of minorities, and not people”. The parliamentarian said that he was ashamed that the state showed so much concern for beliefs that are considered a crime by Christians.
“The Seimas has become concerned with homosexuals’ rights. If it was similarly concerned with rural people, a third of them may not have left the country”, stated the parliamentarian. “All values have been turned upside down. My Lord! What is happening here in the Seimas”?