Joint Advocacy Efforts for the Protection of Rainbow Families: Milestone Judgment in Fedotova and Others v. Russia

Russia must create a “legal framework” for same-sex couples, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled  on 17 January 2023 in Fedotova and Others v. Russia. This  also applies to 46 Council of Europe member states, including Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Ukraine and others which have not yet adopted an LGBTIQ-inclusive framework for the recognition of same-sex families.

The Court confirmed that “in accordance with their positive obligations under Article 8 (Respect for family life) of the  Convention, the member States are required to provide a legal framework allowing same‑sex couples to be granted adequate recognition and protection of their relationship. <…>[R]ecognition and protection of that kind confers legitimacy on such couples and promotes their inclusion in society, regardless of sexual orientation. The Court emphasises that a democratic society within the meaning of the Convention rejects any stigmatisation based on sexual orientation <…> [T]he allegedly negative, or even hostile, attitude on the part of the heterosexual majority in Russia cannot be set against the applicants’ interest in having their respective relationships adequately recognised and protected by law.” (Paras. 178, 180, 219)

A number of academic and human rights organizations submitted requests for third-party intervention in this case. National LGBTI Rights Organization co-signed an amicus curiae letter with Asociaţia Accept  and 6 other organizations that promote human rights for LGBTI persons in Contracting States of the Council of Europe where Government provide no form of legal recognition and protection for families formed of same-sex unions.

Submission maintained that “in the absence of legal recognition of their relationship, same-sex couples faced major difficulties in everyday life.  Moreover, the lack of an appropriate legal framework contributed to reinforcing prejudices against LGBTI people. On the contrary, as was shown by social surveys, access to marriage for LGBTI people enhanced their acceptance by society”. (Paras. 129-131)

LGL together with other civil society organizations also submitted written interventions concerning family rights of LGBTIQ persons in the ongoing ECtHR cases of Buhuceanu and Ciobotaru v. Romania and Relu-Adrian Coman and Others v. Romania.

In Lithuania, recent political efforts to lay down gender-neutral partnership regulation fell short: the Partnership Bill was rejected in 2021, while the new Civil Union Bill  passed its first parliamentary reading in May, 2022. It is seen by many as too much of a compromise as it does not define same-sex couples as family. In September, the parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs in parliament approved the Civil Union Bill, but its reading is delayed.

Strategic litigation case is currently initiated by the civil society organizations in Lithuania which aims at the legalization of civil unions/partnerships of same-sex couples and marriages, their recognition as families and their non-discriminatory treatment in Lithuania.