Lithuanian Parliament Urged to Protect the Constitutional Definition of Family

On International Children’s Day, almost eighty nongovernmental organizations urged Lithuanian Parliament members not to change the existing constitutional definition of family, and to develop realistic measures to ensure protection and support for children and families. The NGOs noted that the proposed amendments provide no further benefit to families in Lithuania, but rather the opposite – they would narrow the definition of a family and threaten the rights of children raised out of wedlock or by a single parent.

In the plenary session on June 2nd, 2016 the Lithuanian Parliament Seimas shunned families based on love and mutual understanding in a hearing to supplement and amend Article 38 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania. With 54 votes against, 29 votes for, and 9 abstentions, Seimas rejected the legal committee’s negative conclusion on amendments to Article 38 of the Constitution. In other words, Seimas voted for a move to amend the Constitution one way or another, and to specify that a family consists only of a married father and mother.

Although the current Constitution distinguishes marriage as one of the main family formations, and declares family to be the foundation of the state and society, 106 Parliament members find this protection inadequate – the proposed amendments would define marriage as the only valid family formation in Lithuania.

The appeal signed by the organizations draws attention to the fact that if the amendment were adopted, families such as single-parent families, families in which parents are not married, families without children, grandparents raising grandchildren, brothers and sisters growing up together, etc. probably would have no recourse to legal protection.

The NGOs also note that the proposed amendment does not in any way improve the situation of families in Lithuania, ensure that existing children have the opportunity to go to kindergarten, or strengthen existing families. The amendment speaks of the authorization to be and call one’s self family at the highest constitutional level capable of determining what is worthy of constitutional protection.

The authors point out that there are more than 200 legal protections are associated with family, which affect other unmarried people in addition to spouses. All of these laws would have to be changed and edited based on the new constitutional definition, if it were replaced.

The 76 nongovernmental organizations urged Parliament members to ensure state-guaranteed protection and fulfill civil obligation to individuals ensuring their ability to start families, provide protection from domestic violence, and develop a real mechanism to maintain children’s human rights and the rights of all families to a full life and stable legal framework.

However, the discriminative proposal to amend the Constitution remains in the Lithuanian Parliament’s agenda.

The National LGBT rights organization LGL expresses deep concern regarding the initiatives which seek to limit the fundamental human rights of LGBT* people in Lithuania. The association LGL hopes that the members of the Parliament will prevent similar discriminative initiatives and will ensure all rights and freedoms for everyone in Lithuania despite sexual orientation and/or gender identity.