On April 1, 2001, just a few seconds after midnight, Mayor of Amsterdam was the first registrar in the world to marry a gay couple. That night four same-sex couples tied the knot, followed by another 382 who married in the same month.
Currently sixteen European countries fully recognize same-sex marriages, while thirteen recognize a form of civil union between same-sex persons. Same-sex couples are able to enjoy a full joint adoption in seventeen European countries.
Meanwhile, almost one-fifth a century later since the breakthrough events in Amsterdam, there is virtually no same-sex partnership recognition in six EU member states.
Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia still have minimal-to-no access to LGBT family rights, therefore 6 LGBT rights organizations operating in the respective countries have joined their long-standing expertise to promote family diversity and improve socio-legal conditions for LGBT families.
Raising awareness for Inclusive Societies to Embrace rainbow families in Europe (R.I.S.E) is project composed of a variety of activities, specially designed to increase understanding on the every-day challenges and obstacles of an insufficient legal base as well as to respond to social stigma encountered by local LGBT families.
Same-sex couples mostly remain invisible in said societies and face difference in treatment in comparison to their heterosexual counterparts. Such couples have very limited legal guarantees, e.g. they cannot become officially married, form a civil partnership, apply for a joint adoption together, nor enter for a joint guardians of a child.
Rainbow Families do not have an option to officially form a typical family units, thus there is no possibility for them to receive the corresponding social security benefits. Variety of difficulties emerge in an everyday life, making it next to impossible to apply for a financial loan as partners or acquire a joint ownership of an immovable property, among numerous others.
According to Vladimir Simonko, Executive Director of the National LGBT rights organization, viewing family values as the foundation of society is not incompatible with social acceptance of homosexuality. It has already been established by the Constitutional Court of Lithuania that relations between same-sex couples fall within the concept of a family life. Recent Beizaras and Levickas v. Lithuania case recalled yet another principle, derived from ECHR case law: sexual orientation alone may not on its own justify different treatment.
“Nevertheless, same-sex couples are still treated differently under several European countries’ legislations, including that of Lithuania,” said Vladimir Simonko.
R.I.S.E strives to achieve a positive change in terms of a non-discriminatory portrayal of LGBT families among general population and improve awareness on compromised quality of life of LGBT families on a decisionmaker level.
Project is implemented by the National LGBT rights organization LGL (Lithuania), LGBT and their Friends Association Mozaika (Latvia); Love Does Not Exclude Association MNW (Poland), LGBTI Organization BILITIS (Bulgaria), Association ACCEPT (Romania), Iniciatíva Inakost (Slovakia).