Lithuanian Government Pushes Opposite-Sex Partnership Bill

On August 11th, 2016 the Government of the Republic of Lithuania gave approval to the changes proposed by the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania to the Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuania which would legalize civil partnership of opposite-sex couples and further exclude same-sex couples from legal recognition of same-sex relationships.

On October 14th, 2015 the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania rejected the bill and returned to the Ministry of Justice for additional improvements. 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 revised legislation acknowledges all existing forms of cohabitation. “Lithuania is one of the few European Union countries, where partnerships between men and women are not legally recognized. Today the Government has taken a very important step, which will ensure a proper protection of tens of thousands couples’ and their children’s rights and interests. I hope that the Parliament will follow the Government’s example by adopting the changes needed to protect the interests of Lithuanian citizens,” claimed Juozas Bernatonis, the Minister of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania.

According to Mr. Bernatonis, the proposed law seeks 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. “Partnership would be considered as cohabitation between a man and a woman, based only on constant emotional attachment, mutual understanding, responsibility, respect, co-parenting and similar ties, as well as voluntary choice to take on certain rights and obligations,” explained Mr. Bernatonis.

The Minister of Justice maintained that the popular support for the different-sex partnership is “overwhelming”. “Based on a public survey conducted a year ago, the absolute majority of the country’s population, 84 % of Lithuanian citizens, support the partnerships between men and women. Making partnerships legal is relevant to around 200 thousand people, since around 100 thousand couples live in partnerships,” added Mr. Bernatonis.

On June 3rd, 2015 during a live debate on the national television Mr. Bernatonis made a claim that the “number of homosexual couples living together in Lithuania” is “simply too low” to legislate on same-sex partnerships. “When it comes to same-sex partnerships, I believe that there are too few cases to even consider it. I am convinced that propaganda is more widespread in Lithuania than homosexual couples. When we speak about different forms of family life, I do not recognize that people of same-sex living together are able to create family relationships. And I am not the only one who thinks so,” insisted the Minister of Justice.

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 meantime, 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.

The National LGBT* Rights Organization LGL expresses its grave concern regarding the position of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania to deprioritize the protection of the rights of the minority. According to the latest Eurobarometer 437 survey, Lithuania remains to be the most homophobic and transphobic society in the European Union (EU). These developments stand in a clear contrast with the mission of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania in respecting, protecting and the rights of every Lithuanian citizen.

“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.