Lithuanian Parliament Adopts Family Law: No to Same-Sex Families

On 19 October 2017 the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania adopted the Law on Strengthening Families. The law established the family model exclusively based on a marriage between a man and a woman, thus discriminating other alternative families. 60 MPs voted in favor of the new legislation, 5 MPs voted against and 9 MPs abstained. Despite the fact that this new law seeks to address important issues within the Lithuanian society, the National LGBT* Rights Organization LGL is of the position that the definition of family life established by the law in question indirectly discriminates same-sex families.

The introductory part of the law states that “the foundation of a family is a free agreement between a man and a woman in order to take upon moral and legal obligations” and that “complementarity of a man and a woman is a foundation of an inherent and fundamental community, as well as the most suitable environment for nurture, development and education of a child.” The law also foresees the establishment of new institutions for making and implementing family-related policies, namely The National Family Council, the Commission of Family Policy and the Municipal Family Councils.

In the course of deliberating on the proposed legislation some of the MPs had very positive opinion about it. The representative of the Homeland Union Mr. Andrius Navickas stated that “the only way of combating social emergencies is to address their root causes and there is no other way than investing into families, because only strong families can take care of themselves, namely to bear children and to bring them up.” The representative of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania-Christian Families Alliance Ms. Rita Tamašunienė claimed that in order to define families, the politicians should turn to the kinder gardens. “We need to visit kinder gardens and to ask children about their understanding of families – they would respond immediately. […] the State has to say very clearly that we see family as an union between a man and a woman, their responsibility before children; the State should support only these families, because they represent the best environment for children,” – claimed the conservative politician.

Some other MPs were not so sure about the effectiveness of the proposed legislation. “By loudly declaring our support for families we will not be necessarily improving the living conditions by the citizens of this country. I also cannot comprehend how the newly established institutions will improve the situation of Lithuanian families,” – expressed her criticism the MP Viktorija Čmilytė Nielsen from the Liberal Movement.

The National LGBT* Rights Organization LGL expresses its concerns over the continuous efforts by the Lithuanian politicians in narrowing down the definition of family life. “Same-sex partners living in stable de facto unions are families and no declarative legal statements can change this reality. We hope that one day our politicians will comprehend that all Lithuanian families are important. We will be able to address the demographic crisis only by acknowledging all Lithuanian families regardless of their marital status,” – commented LGL’s Executive Director Vladimir Simonko.

In 2011 the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania stated that “Marriage is one of the constitutional grounds in developing family relations. However, it does not mean that the Constitution […] does not protect and defend other than marriage-based families. […] The concept of family is based on the mutual responsibility, understanding, emotional affection, assistance and similar relations of family members, as well as the voluntary determination to take on certain rights and obligations, i.e. the content of relationships. Therefore, expressions and forms of these relationships are of no significance to the constitutional concept of family.” In 2013 and in 2016 the Lithuanian Parliament sought to emend the Article 38 of the Lithuanian Constitution by indicating that family can be based only upon a marriage between a man and a woman. The civil society organizations are inviting to sign the petition “#LAISVA_LT”, which is inviting the Lithuanian politicians to ensure the right to live free from discrimination and to be respected and defended by the State for all Lithuanian families without exception.