Lithuanian Parliament Proceeds with Banning Same-Sex Couples from Constitutional Concept of Family Life

On June 28th, 2016 the Lithuanian Parliament voted in favor of the constitutional amendment, which seeks to eliminate same-sex couples from the ambit of the constitutional concept of family life. 74 MPs voted in favor of the constitutional amendment, 19 MPs voted against and 20 MPs abstained. This vote implicates that no sooner than in ten days the Lithuanian Parliament will hold the first hearing with the view of adopting the constitutional amendment. In order for it to be adopted, the Lithuanian Parliament will have to vote in favor of the amendment twice, securing the majority of 94 votes in favor on both occasions. There has to be at least three (3) months break between the two votes.   

The current proposal to change the Article 38 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania was registered in the Lithuanian Parliament in late 2013. This amendment seeks to redefine the constitutionally protected concept of family life as emanating from heterosexual marriage between a man and a woman and stipulates that family also arises from motherhood and fatherhood. The analogous constitutional amendment failed to be adopted in 2012, as it secured 93 votes in favor, thus not reaching the required majority of 94 votes.

The today’s vote reveled a sharp distinction among the political parties regarding their stance on the constitutional amendment. While only the Liberal Movement voted against the amendment almost anonymously (7 votes against and 1 vote abstaining), the Social Democrats did not support the constitutional amendment as well (1 vote in favor, 10 votes against and 15 votes abstaining). The Homeland Union (29 votes in favor) and the Polish Electoral Campaign (8 votes in favor) have voted in favor of the constitutional amendment. The only openly gay Lithuanian MP Rokas Žilinskas (Homeland Union) has also voted in favor of the constitutional amendment.

The National LGBT* Rights Organization LGL is gravely concerned about these negative developments regarding the proposed constitutional amendment. “If adopted, this constitutional amendment would send a very clear message that same-sex couples are not considered as families by the Lithuanian legal system. It is very hard to comprehend the level of homophobia prevalent within the Lithuanian Parliament,” – says the LGL’s Executive Director Vladimir Simonko.

The multiple stakeholders have commented that the proposed constitutional amendment potentially interferes with the jurisprudence by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which defines “family life” as emanating from the nature of the relationships between individuals rather than from its legal status.