Lithuanian Parliament Refuses to Consider a Bill Establishing Procedure of Legal Gender Recognition

On July 8th, 2014 the Lithuanian Parliament Seimas considered the bill amendment to the Law on Public Registry No. XIP-2017(3).  Despite the fact that the bill consists of multiple amendments to the law in question, i.e. seeking to simplify the functioning of the public registry by enabling residents to submit inquires and to fill in forms on-line, the whole package was blocked because it bears the provision on legal gender recognition. The Parliament returned the bill to the Committee on Legal Affairs requesting to ‘fix it’ through removing the provision on establishing the procedure of legal gender recognition.

Article 27 of the proposed bill foresees that “civil registry office records change of gender upon the submission of application by a person concerned and the receipt of certificate on completed gender reassignment from certified medical institution.” The Lithuanian Government has claimed on multiple occasions before the international human rights bodies (e.g. UN Human Rights Committee and the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe) that this measure seeks to implement the L. v. Lithuania judgment (2007) by the European Court of Human Rights. The national human rights organizations – Lithuanian Gay League and Human Rights Monitoring Institute – have heavily criticized this proposal as failing to establish quick, transparent and accessible procedure of legal gender recognition in the country.

Despite its shortcomings, the proposed measures would have created legal basis for legal gender recognition, thus eliminating currently prevailing legal vacuum (i.e. transgender people have to apply before the national courts in order to change their identity documents). However, even this modest option was not acceptable for the members of the Lithuanian Parliament. In the plenary session MP Joans Rimantas Dagys stated that these kind of measures “seek to finance gender reassignment surgeries from taxpayers money” (00:47:15) and that “gender reassignment is non-sense” (01:06:58). 27 MPs voted in favor of the bill amendment, 18 Mps – against it and 39 MPs abstained. The bill amendment was returned to the Committee on Legal Affairs for “improvement”.

According to the Board Chair of the national LGBT* rights asociation Vladimir Simonko, today’s motion in the Lithuanian Parliament very clearly indicates that any legal reform in the field of transgender rights is prevented by transphobic animosities. “Lithuania is failing its international human rights obligations for its most vulnerable and neglected group of citizens, i.e. members of the transgender community. This is an open wound in human rights and it is high time the legal measures were adopted.”

Despite the fact the Lithuanian Civil Code, adopted in 2001, foresees the right to change one’s gender, the Law on Legal gender Recognition has not been adopted ever since. In 2007 Lithuania lost the case L. v. Lithuaniabefore the European Court of Human Rights. The Strasbourg court stated that the failure to adopt the Law on Gender Reassignment violated the right to private life by the transgender applicant. The Court ordered for the Lithuanian Government to establish the effective procedure of legal gender recognition in the country within three months. 7 years after the judgment had been adopted, it has not been yet substantially implemented iby the Lithuanian authorities.