On July 11th, 2017 the National LGBT* Rights Organization LGL appealed to Dalia Grybauskaitė, the President of the Republic of Lithuania, asking to veto the amendments to the Law on Equal Opportunities of the Republic of Lithuania and return them to the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania for further considerations. If approved, the proposed amendments would establish a definition of “family members” that would be inconsistent with other national laws and could lead to discrimination of couples from foreign countries who have entered into registered partnerships.
Under the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, the President has the right to veto any law approved by the Parliament and to return it for further considerations. However, if the Parliament approves it for the second time – with or without considering the concerns expressed by the President – the law has to come into force.
In its letter the National LGBT* Rights Organization LGL notes that the amendments to the Law on Equal Opportunities, approved by the Parliament on July 11th, 2017, define family members of citizens of the Member States of the European Union (EU) and of the Member States of the European Economic Area (EEA) as “spouses or direct descendants, who are younger than 21 years old or who are dependents, including the direct descendants of the spouse, who are younger than 21 years old or who are dependents, or dependent relatives of lineal descendant of the citizen of a Member State of the European Union or a Member State of the EEA or of spouse.” An alternative proposal to amend the Law on Equal Opportunities defined family members as “the spouse or the person with whom the registered partnership agreement is concluded, or the direct descendants, who are younger than 21 years old or who are dependents, including the direct descendants of the spouse or of the person with whom the registered partnership agreement is concluded, who are younger than 21 years old or who are dependents, dependent relatives of lineal descendant of the citizen of a Member State of the European Union or a Member State of the EEA, of the spouse or of the person with whom the registered partnership agreement is concluded.”
The aim of the amendments to the Law on Equal Opportunities is to transpose the Directive 2014/54/EU into the national law. The Directive recognizes “family members” as they are defined in the Directive 2004/38/EC on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States. Removing any references to “registered partnerships” would mean that different national laws would define “family members” differently. The definition of “family members” of citizens of the EU Member States and EEA Member States (which include persons with whom the registered partnerships are concluded) is established in the Article 2.4 of the Law on Legal Status of Foreign Citizens, as well as in the Article 5.1.7 of the Law on Monetary Assistance in the Event of Death and Article 1.2.7 of the Law on Child Benefits.
In its appeal to the President, LGL stresses that transposing the definition of family to include registered partners would not obligate Lithuanian authorities to register partnerships between same-sex or different-sex couples. However, such partnerships are registered in other EU Member States, i. e. Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Netherlands, Slovenia and Sweden. The Directive 2014/54/EU prohibits discrimination of European Union citizens and their family members based on their nationality. If the current proposal to amend the Law on Equal Opportunities would be adopted, the registered partners of citizens from countries where partnerships are registered would not be recognized as family members and would not be able to file complain to the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson regarding discrimination based on nationality.
LGL notes that the initial proposal to amend the Law on Equal Opportunities No. XIIIP-837(2) defined “family members” as including “the person with whom the registered partnership agreement is concluded”. On July 4th, 2017, MP Agnė Širinskienė (Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union Political Group) put forward the proposal to exclude the mentioning of ‘registered partnerships’ in the amendment. On July 5th, the Committee on Human Rights of the Lithuanian Parliament supported the proposal: 2 members voted in favor, 1 – against and 1 member abstained. However, on June 28th, the Committee rejected a very similar proposal from MP Petras Gražulis (Order and Justice Political Group): 5 members voted against and 2 – abstained. LGL would like to question what could have changed the Committee’s position so radically overnight and why the Committee decided to vote on MP Agnė Širinskienė’s proposal, submitted after official deadline and proposing to exclude “registered partnerships” from the amendments, even thought it had already submitted the conclusion regarding the proposal to amend the Law on Equal Opportunities on June 28th, 2017.
“Some members of the Lithuanian Parliament are purposefully seeking to ensure that the rights of LGBT* community are not protected in Lithuania. On the other hand, we must understand that these amendments to the Law on Equal Opportunities primarily concern citizens of our strategic EU partners,” Vladimir Simonko, Executive Director of LGL, expressed his concern. “The Lithuanian Parliament sends a clear message that registered partners can be lawfully discriminated against in our country. Such situation is completely unacceptable. Therefore, we are forced to appeal to the President of Lithuania”, explained the Executive Director of LGL.