Hate speech measures are covered by the Chapter XXV of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Lithuania entitled “Crimes and misdemeanors against a person’s equal rights and freedom of conscience”. It contains the list of acts attempting to undermine one or both of the values – equality and freedom of conscience. The same Chapter of the Criminal Code encompasses crimes of discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, racial, national, language, descent, social status, religion, opinions or convictions, as well as for hindering of religious worship or ceremonies. For more information on how Lithuanian authorities deal with hate speech and an example of hate speech online click here.
Protections against discrimination
According to the Law on Equal Treatment 2005, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is banned in the areas of employment, education and access to goods and services. Public instigation of violence against LGBT* and other minorities is explicitly banned in the Penal Code, section 170 (3). Lithuania’s Criminal Code treats discriminatory motives, such as sexual orientation, as aggravating circumstances in cases in which any criminal activity is committed.
Freedom of assembly
Legal provisions regulating freedom of assembly are embedded in the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania and the Law on Peaceful Assembly. Although the law protects the freedom of assembly, in practice the LGBT community faces difficulties in its exercise. The grounds most often applied by local public authorities for banning undesirable LGBT events have been protection of family values, public order or security. For example, In 2007, the Vilnius city government denied permission for LGL to have a Pride March. LGL challenged this decision with the Ombudsman, but lost their case and their subsequent appeal to the highest court. Baltic Pride 2010 was a victory for freedom of assembly for LGBT people. The event took place successfully after attempts to ban it. For more information about the legal process leading up to Baltic Pride 2010, see LGL’s publication Changing Faces. The following Baltic Pride 2013 was held without preceeding legal trouble, but with occasional protests. On the contrary Baltic Pride 2016 was a peaceful and joyful celebration of equality and diversity.
Law on the Protection of Minors
The Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information has been in effect since March 1 of 2010. This law classifies any information which “denigrates family values” or which “encourages a concept of marriage and family other than stipulated in the Constitution… and the Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuania” as detrimental to children and as a consequence, bans such information from places accessible to children. In Lithuanian law, marriage is defined as between a man and a woman. Thus, publicly promoting same-sex partnerships or advocating for marriage equality would be prohibited under this law. This law was used in an attempt to ban Baltic Pride 2010. The original wording of the law proposal included the wording forbade “propaganda of homosexual, bisexual or polygamous relations”, but was changed due to international pressure e.g. from the European Parliament and human rights organisations. To see examples where the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information directly interfered with the right to freedom of expression of LGBT* persons click here.
Recognition of same-sex relationships
Neither registered partnership nor marriage are available to same-sex couples in Lithuania. There are several provisions banning the registration of same-sex unions in Lithuania. Article 38 of the Lithuanian Constitution states “Marriage shall be concluded upon the free mutual consent of a man and a woman”. Same-sex marriage is also explicitly banned in Article 3.12 of the country’s Civil Code, stating that “Marriage shall be concluded with a person of the opposite sex only”. Moreover, the country’s Civil Code allows the institution of partnerships to be approved by the legislative authorities, although Article 3.229 of the Code restricts them to heterosexual couples.
In November 2011 the Lithuanian Ministry of Justice presented a draft law on recognizing the status of cohabiting unmarried partners. However, the Ministry did not propose to include same-sex couples in the scope of this law. Member of Parliament Ms. Pavilionienė (Social Democrat) in turn registered a draft partnership law which would include same-sex partnership. Minister of Justice Remigijus Šimašius, however, argues that homosexual couples already have sufficient legal measures in place to protect their interests. These draft laws have not gone forward in Parliament.
On 30th May, 2017 the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania voted for the proposal (XIIIP-750) to amend the Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuania to regulate cohabitation by way of cohabitation agreement. The draft proposal has been approved for further consideration in the Lithuanian Parliament. On 15th June, 2017 the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania voted down a proposal by liberal MPs to amend the Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuania, aiming to recognize the legal status of both different-sex and same-sex couples. However, 29 members of the Lithuanian Parliament voted in favor of the proposal, 59 voted against, 20 abstained.
The situation of transgender persons remains of serious concern. Article 2.27 of the Civil Code allows any non-married person to change legal gender if this is medically possible. The second paragraph states, however, that the procedures for changing gender should be led according to a separate law. In 2007 Lithuania lost the case L vs. Lithuania in the European Court of Human Rights. The ruling obligated Lithuania to pass a law regulating the procedure and conditions of gender reassignment, which Lithuania has subsequently ignored. Over the years there have been several attempts by members of parliament to solve the legal vacuum by prohibiting gender reassignment completely. However, In April and May 2017 the national courts provided first 2 transgender individuals with LGR without the requirement for gender reassignment surgery, i.e. based on mental diagnosis. In March 2017, the Government mandated the Miniproy of Justice and the Ministry of Health to prepare draft legislation enabling gender reassignment. The draft legislation will be prepared by September 1st, 2017 and it should be considered by the Parliament in 2018. For comprehensive information on transgender issues in Lithuania click here.
Gays and lesbians are allowed to serve openly in the military. In 2011 a complaint was received by the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson that the Soldiers’ Code of Conduct does not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on the ground of sexual orientation. The Ombudsperson saw no violation of law, but recommended that the ground be added.
Proposed limitations to LGBT* rights
In recent years there have been several attempts to introduce laws with the aim to limit the rights of the LGBT community, namely proposals to prohibit gender reassignment and continuous attempts by MP Petras Gražulis to ban “homosexual propaganda”. For the list of homophobic and transphobic legislative initiatives in Lithuania click here.
Same sex sexual activity – Legal since 1993
Equal age of consent – Equal since 2004
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only – In place since 2005
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods – In place since 2005
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas – In place
Same-sex marriages – Constitutional ban since 1992
Recognition of same-sex couples – N/A
Adoption by single gays and lesbians – N/A
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples – N/A
Joint adoption by same-sex couples – N/A
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military – Allowed
Right to change legal gender – Legislation being drafted
Right to change legal gender – N/A
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples – N/A
Right to speak publicly – Limited to Law on the protection of Minors