Open lesbians and gays are welcome in Lithuanian army?

Can a young man serve in the Army, making no secret he is a homosexual? Such question is raised by country’s LGBT community after receiving a conclusion from the Ombudsman of Equal opportunities. Though Ministry of National Defense (MoND) claims that common principles of non-discrimination are enough and says never heard of possible discrimination based on sexual orientation, Ombudsman Aušrinė Burneikienė recommended to regulate this issue in the Soldier Code of Conduct in a more clear way.
Investigation on possible breach of Equal opportunities law was started when a complaint was received from a young woman. Law obliges institutions to assure that legal acts issued by them implement equal rights and opportunities regardless of gender, race, nationality, language, origin, social status, religion, beliefs or attitudes, age, sexual orientation or disability.
The author of the complaint had missed a clear statement about non-discrimination based on sexual orientation in the Soldier Code of Conduct. This document commits serving soldier “to respect and protect each person’s dignity and main rights and liberties, irrespective of his/her nationality or origin, social status, political, religious views”.
“In the future I purpose to become a member of voluntary army service, therefore I will also have to follow this code”, the woman stated in the complaint. “Considering that I am a homosexual and I do not conceal it in my environment, if this fact comes out, it may cause problems interacting with other soldiers. Since the Code does not raise the requirement not to restrict rights in soldiers’ interaction and not to render privileges regardless of sexual orientation (people of this group are especially exposed in the army), it means I will not have an opportunity to use the protection of the Code and so my rights and equal opportunities are violated and my position is less favorable than of other soldiers”.
Would immunity of private life protect?
MoND chancellor Leonardas Bakaitis thinks that the complaint is unreasoned, because law of Equal opportunities does not directly require including the mentioned phrase into legal acts of an institution or an agency. Purportedly, it is enough to avoid phrasings, which may become a basis for discrimination.
Sexual orientation is not mentioned in the Constitution, however, a right not to be discriminated for that is protected, as it is related to human’s personal life. According to the chancellor, legislation, regulating soldiers’ serving, protects the right for sanctity of personal life (as well as for sexual orientation).
For example, legislation for soldiers’ selection, rotation, order for honoring degrees, serving process and conditions do not foresee that sexual orientation would be considered while assigning tasks, honoring a degree or other. Rights and liberties of the soldiers are restricted only as much as the law permits and army interests require. Soldiers are not required to give information on their sexual orientation.
Army’s status foresees disciplinary responsibility for offending other soldier. Soldier Code of Conduct obliges soldiers not to perform, prompt or tolerate the behavior, humiliating human’s dignity. Their intercommunication is based on respect, trust, honesty, help, equal rights, tolerance and discretion, soldiers shall not restrict each other’s rights or provide with privileges due to gender, origin, language, social status, religion, age, beliefs or views. A soldier must avoid humiliating or offending other soldier, scandals, slander, provocation of dissension, shall behave respectfully when interacting with colleagues.
Breach was not found, though it is suggested to amend the code
Law Institute have also noticed, that law obliges institutions and agencies to assure equal opportunities (to thoroughly check if law acts follow Equal opportunities requirement and if human’s equal opportunities are not violated), but not to consolidate. In other words, agencies or institutions are asked not to repeat the law word by word, but not to breach the rights of a single human group. “Prohibition to discriminate on a base of sexual orientation is in the law of Equal opportunities, therefore its existence in law acts of weaker power does not have a discretionary juridical significance“.
Lawyers had paid attention, that soldier status and intercommunication are regulated not only according to the Code of Conduct. It also shall follow law acts of higher power: the Constitution, the law of Equal opportunities. National Defense system’s organization and military service law foresee that soldier’s dignity shall be respected, soldier shall not face humiliation, and he has a right to a protection of his personal life.
On the grounds of these explanations, A. Burneikienė stated, that Soldier Code of Conduct does not violate the law of Equal opportunities. Despite this, seeking juridical clearness and compatibility of law act regulation, she recommended to put all grounds for non-discrimination from the Constitution and the law of Equal opportunities to the Code or to foresee durative list of possible discrimination grounds.
No complaints received to date
As the head of Public Department of MoND, Jovita Buzevičiūtė, have stated to the web portal, decision on corrections of the Code will be taken after getting familiar with the recommendation from the Ombudsman.
According to her, law and other law acts do not foresee sexual orientation as a ground for rejecting or discharging from military service. “The army, the same as the society in general, has the same law acts, which defends human’s inviolability, therefore the background for discharging from military service would not be the orientation itself, but illegal acts, which would make an attempt on other’s rights, e.g., sexual constraint“, said MoND representative.
Neither the ministry, nor National Defense system institutions, responsible for examining complaints, have not received the complaint to date, that a soldier would be offended because of sexual orientation (even if he had never confessed to be homosexual).
To this day, more than 7,6 thousand of professional and about 120 of mandatory basic military service soldiers and 4,3 thousand of volunteers serve in Lithuania‘s National Defense system.
Keep silent if face bullying
Lithuanian gay community leader Vladimir Simonko has not examined how many homosexuals may be serving the army; however he has no doubt, that there are gays and lesbians among the troops. “I myself have served, but this was in the Soviet period”, he said to the web portal The collocutor knows a homosexual, who served in Afghanistan.
In V. Simonko’s words, “the ombudsman sends a message for the soldiers, that law of Equal opportunities is obligatory to them and it is forbidden to discriminate on the ground of sexual orientation in the army”.
According to him, the army must have juridical clearness and definiteness, because in this sphere showing of power is quite often. “Persons, who have faced discrimination in military service, are more likable not to forgive the cases of discrimination or twit, so that there would not be negative consequences or results. That is why, more clearness and definiteness is needed in the Soldier Code of Conduct, indicating which soldier rights and interests must be protected and indefeasible”, said V. Simonko. Inappropriate behavior should include harassment (physical or verbal activities, humiliating others for their race, gender, sexual orientation, and other personal qualities).
“Is MoND ready to take effective actions, so that non-discrimination policy would be implemented practically?”, V. Simonko asked rhetorically. “We hear the minister speaking, that there is no discrimination in the army. For the meantime it sounds like a declaration, but not like an applied behavior standard. Probably, it is not yet realized, that pro-active non-discrimination policy is not a challenge to a traditional army and it will not create ungrounded confusion”.
Community leader instigated to ground non-discriminating behavior standard with regulations, significant to the protection of homosexual soldiers and discipline assurance. Such behavior, purportedly, overwhelms respect and tolerance to the others.
“Heterosexuals must be required to tolerate homosexuals, however the whole personnel, including known homosexuals, shall clearly understand, that military service is not a place for demonstrating one’s sexual orientation or expressing sexuality”, he noted.