LGBT rights in Lithuania

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LGBT rights in Lithuania
Location of  Lithuania  (dark green)– in Europe  (light green & dark grey)– in the European Union  (light green)  –  [Legend]
Location of  Lithuania  (dark green)

– in Europe  (light green & dark grey)
– in the European Union  (light green)  –  [Legend]

Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1993,
age of consent equalized in 2004
Gender identity/expression
Military service Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation protections (see below)
Family rights
Recognition of
relationships
No recognition of same-sex couples, same-sex marriage constitutionally banned
Adoption No joint adoption by same-sex couples

Both male and female same-sex sexual activity are legal in Lithuania, but neither gay-marriage nor civil same-sex partnership are available. Although homosexuality was decriminalised in 1993, the historic legacy has resulted in limited rights for gays and lesbians. Protection against discrimination was legislated for as part of the criteria for European Union accession and in 2010 the first gay pride parade took place in Vilnius.[1]

Attitudes[edit]

Negative attitudes against gay and lesbian men and women remain entrenched. A European Union member poll, conducted in 2006, showed Lithuania at 17% support for gay marriage and 12% for rights of adoption.[2] Another study, conducted in 2006, showed that 42% of respondents would agree on a same-sex civil partnership law, 12% – same-sex marriage, 13% – right to adopt.[3] The support for same-sex couples’ rights diminished significantly since then and continue this trend. A 2012 study revealed a 10% support for same-sex partnerships, 7% for same-sex marriages, while an identical study in 2013 showed only a 7% support for partnerships and 5% support for marriages.[4]

A poll conducted in 2009 showed that only 16% of Lithuanians would approve of a gay pride march in the capital Vilnius and 81.5% of respondents considered homosexuality as a perversion, disease or paraphilia.[5]

There is only a small gay community in Vilnius, Kaunas and Klaipėda. Elsewhere in Lithuania, however, the sparse population means there is no active or prominent gay community.

A media campaign against LGBT people was launched by the tabloid Respublika in 2004 – 2006. About two-thirds of the members of parliament declared their hostility to LGBT people during the campaign.[6]

During the census of 2011, only 24 same-sex households were declared.[7]

Public laws[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity, which was illegal in the Soviet Union, was legalized in Lithuania in 1993. The age of consent was equalized in 2004, at 14 years of age in order to fulfill European Union accession criteria against discrimination. In 2010, on the 2nd of July, the age of consent was raised to 16 years, regardless of gender and sexual orientation.[8]

Discrimination protections[edit]

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.[9]

The amendments to the Law on Equal Treatment repealing the prohibition to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation were under consideration by Seimas (Lithuania's parliament) since 5 June 2008,[10] but they were rejected when Seimas adopted the new version of the Law on 17 June 2008.

On the other hand, public instigation of violence against LGBT and other minorities is explicitly banned in the country's Penal Code, section 170 (3)[11] which is effectively applied. For example, a 2010 preliminary investigation by Lithuanian authorities revealed that 160 out of about 180 instances of hate speech (most of them online) concerned the LGBT community. The perpetrators are usually fined, and their computers occasionally get confiscated.[12]

Right to public expression[edit]

Despite the advanced anti-discrimination laws, during the last years LGBT people faced some initiatives to limit their rights to public expression.

Pride Parade 2010 in Vilnius[edit]

In 2007, Vilnius City Council refused to grant the permission for the public meetings of LGBT people on May and October citing "security reasons".[13][14]

Vilnius' city council allowed Lithuania's gay pride parade, Baltic Pride 2010, to take place on Saturday, 8 May 2010. A court stopped the parade from proceeding shortly before the parade was due to take place after the Attorney General acted. The Attorney General, Raimundas Petrauskas, cited security as the reason for his involvement. President Dalia Grybauskaitė voiced her opposition to the court ruling through her spokesperson citing the constitutional right to peaceful assembly. This decision was overturned by a higher court just one day before the parade took place. With a heavy police presence, Baltic Pride 2010 took place to much violence from opponents of gay rights.[15][16]

Pride Parade 2013 in Vilnius[edit]

The Baltic Pride parade rotates through the Baltic states on a yearly basis and in 2013 it was again Lithuania's turn to host the event. This time the parade attracted much more attention because Lithuania at that time was in charge of the presidency of the Council of the European Union.[17]

In January 2013 The Lithuanian Gay League (LGL) lodged a submission to the Vilnius Municipality in order to hold the parade on 27 July 2013.[18] Unlike in 2010, LGL would not settle for an outer spot and demanded to march on Gedimino avenue, located in the very centre of Vilnius. The Vilnius Municipality denied this submission arguing that it would be difficult to assure the appropriate safety measures.[19] The LGL listed a complaint at the Vilnius Administrative Court requesting it to order the Vilnius Municipality to allow the march on Gedimino avenue.[20] Although the mayor of Vilnius, Artūras Zuokas, consistently repeated that the municipality would implement the lower court's verdict[21] the case had to run through all judicial instancies. On 23 July 2013, four days before the set date, the Chief Administrative Court ordered the municipality to fully serve LGL's submission.[22]

Approximately 500 people participated in the Baltic Pride 2013 and over 1000 (the majority of whom were protesters) gathered around the Gedimino avenue. Due to heavy police forces, no major disturbances took place, with only 28 people being arrested for causing public disorder,[23] one of which was an anti-gay oriented Lithuanian MP, Petras Gražulis.[24] The Baltic Pride 2013 included some prominent attendees, such as the Swedish Minister for European Union Affairs, Birgitta Ohlsson and American LGBT rights activist Stuart Milk.[25] Vladimir Simonko, the leader of LGL, called the Baltic Pride 2013 a festivity for the whole city of Vilnius and does not dismiss the idea of organizing an annual LGBT pride parade in Lithuania.[26]

Law on the Protection of Minors[edit]

The amendments to the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information, effectively banning the "promotion of homosexual relations" and allegedly aimed at limiting the rights of LGBT people, were proposed in 2006, 2007 and 2008.[27]

The Lithuanian parliament had approved the new version of the law which was scheduled to be enacted on 1 March 2010.[28] Even though it was vetoed by the president citing "lack of definitions",[29] the veto was repealed by the Parliament. By that time in its wording the law forbade "propaganda of homosexual, bisexual or polygamous relations". According to some politicians who voted in favor, the possibility of defining "propaganda" should be left to lawyers.

On 17 September 2009 the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning the law and requesting the EU Fundamental Rights Agency to issue a legal opinion on it.[30] On 10 November 2009, the Lithuanian parliament (Seimas) answered by adopting a resolution requesting the Government to seek the invalidation of the EP Resolution, which it condemned as an unlawful act.[31][32] The EU Fundamental Rights Agency wrote to the European Parliament that it was not going to submit the requested legal opinion, given that it had no mandate to evaluate the legislation of Member States.

The newly elected president expressed her strong disapproval to the law and formed a commission to elaborate a draft in order to repeal the discriminatory provisions. On 22 December 2009 the clauses banning the promotion among minors of "homosexual, bisexual, and polygamous relations" were in fact eliminated, but as a compromise, the paragraph was replaced by a "ban to spread information that would promote sexual relations or other conceptions of concluding a marriage or creating a family other than established in the Constitution or the Civil Code".[33][34] It has been argued that this provision is the first step towards instituting ban on criticizing Government and its decisions and thus – a menace to the democracy in the country.[35] Proponents of the law claim to be led by a desire to protect traditional family and children, some of them have expressed an opinion that the law would ban any information in public about homosexuality, regardless of its accessibility to minors[36] or ban any public discussions and homosexuality related events.[37] The new version has been signed by the president motivating "the homophobic provisions have been repealed".

Significantly, the same law forbids mocking and defiance on the grounds of the sexual orientation. The law enacts a number of other amendments, such as prohibition to promote unhealthy nutrition to minors, ban on information that "profanes family values", depiction of hypnosis etc.

The amendment has been compared sometimes to Section 28, the act which prohibited discussion of homosexuality in UK schools.[38]

Since coming into effect, there have been several cases of the attempt to apply the law. It has been unsuccessfully cited in order to ban the Gay Pride in 2010,[39] Gay Pride in 2013[40] and successfully referenced to declare one advertisement related the Vilnius Gay Pride 2013 as appropriate to be broadcast at night time only and with the adult content logo.[41] The reason given by the board of experts of Journalism ethics inspector service was that one person in the advertisement had a T-shirt with an inscription in Lithuanian "For the diversity of families". In their opinion it encourages a different conception of family and marriage than established in Lithuanian laws.

In 2014, based on similar grounds, the same institution recommended restricting the distribution of a children’s book of tales titled "Gintarinė širdis" ("Amber Heart") published by the Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences, because two stories in it were related to same-sex relationships. The Board ordered the book to be labelled "Not suitable to children under 14 years" and referring to this recommendation, Ministry of Culture banned the book altogether.[42]

Public Information Act[edit]

Article 39.1 of the Public Information Act, amended on 30 September 2010 (the new revision came into effect on 18 October 2010), states that Any advertisement or a commercial audiovisual message may not announce information humiliating a person's dignity, discriminating on grounds of race, sex or ethnic origin, citizenship, religion or faith, handicap or age; these messages may not depict or promote a sexual orientation, offend religious feelings or political convictions, promote a behaviour dangerous to health, safety or a behaviour, especially harmful to environment.[43] It has been argued that they might also ban any depictions of heterosexual orientation as well.[44]

Later it was explained as a "translation error".[45] On 16 June 2011 was adopted new amendment, removing aforementioned phrase and moreover, adding sexual orientation to grounds of banned discrimination.[46]

Amendments to the Code of Administrative Offences and to the Penal Code[edit]

In 2011 it was proposed to amend the Code of Administrative Offences so that it includes a provision "A public propagation of homosexual relations is punishable with a fine from 2000 to 10000 litas." At first the Parliament approved the debate to take place,[47] but later it unanimously rejected the proposal.[48] In 2013 a similar amendment was proposed once again.[49] Another bill introduced the same year seeks to amend the Penal Code so that "he criticism of sexual or sexual practices, convictions or beliefs, or persuasion to change this behavior, practices, convictions or beliefs cannot per se be qualified as harassment, denigration, incitement to hatred, discrimination or incitement to discrimination," possibly allowing hate speech based on sexual orientation.

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Laws regarding same-sex partnerships in Europe
  Same-sex marriage
  Other type of partnership
  Unregistered cohabitation
  Unrecognized
  Constitution limits marriage to opposite-sex couples

Includes laws that have not yet gone into effect.

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".[50] 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".[51] 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.

Gender identity/expression[edit]

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. The Parliament and the Government of Lithuania refuses to take any actions on adopting such a law after it lost the case L v. Lithuania in the European Court of Human Rights in 2007. Since then the gender change became possible only with a court's decision.[52]

It has been proposed to eliminate this provision in 2009[53] and once again in 2013.[54]

Adoption and family planning[edit]

See also: LGBT parenting

In general couples must be married to adopt in Lithuania, and subsequently same-sex couples are not permitted to adopt. The article 3.210 of the Civil Code states, however, that in exceptional cases single persons may be granted. In that case the decision goes to social workers. Nevertheless, the Commission of Family and Child Affairs of the Lithuanian Parliament "expressed a concern if there were enough legal barriers to prevent people of non-traditional orientation to adopt". Specialists have confirmed that barriers are in place, though it is possible to circumvent them.[55] In consequence, the adoption by single homosexuals in practice is not legally possible.

Military service[edit]

Gays and lesbians are allowed to serve openly in the military.

Political support[edit]

Some politicians, mostly representatives of the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party ( Marija Aušrinė Pavilionienė [56] ) and Liberals' Movement of the Republic of Lithuania ( Leonidas Donskis [57] ) have expressed their support for LGBT rights and initiated few laws and resolutions supporting LGBT rights. The main organizations defending LGBT rights in Lithuania are Tolerant Youth Association and the Lithuanian Gay League. One of the members of parliament Rokas Žilinskas is the first member of parliament who was outed as gay.

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (since 1993)
Equal age of consent Yes (since 2004)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only Yes
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services Yes
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) Yes
Same-sex marriages No (constitutional ban)
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Adoption by single gays and lesbians No
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military Yes
Right to change legal gender No
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
Right to speak publicly No Topics restricted: same-sex marriage, same-sex families
MSMs allowed to donate blood No [58]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Vilnius approves gay pride parade
  2. ^ angus-reid
  3. ^ http://www.delfi.lt/news/daily/lithuania/article.php?id=23338407
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ http://www.delfi.lt/news/daily/lithuania/article.php?id=22822011
  6. ^ Quoted from article "Ar virš Lietuvos dar normalus dangus?" (Is the sky still normal over Lithuania?), Respublika, December 2005
  7. ^ http://www.balsas.lt/naujiena/739961/vienalytes-seimos-troskimas-keturios-atzalos
  8. ^ http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/eur/154435.htm
  9. ^ European Fundamental Rights Agency Report on Homophobia, p. 30
  10. ^ "EU blasts Parliament on gay rights vote", Baltic Times, 12 June 2008
  11. ^ http://www.infolex.lt/ta/66150:str170
  12. ^ http://verslas.delfi.lt/Media/prokuroras-interneto-komentatoriams-labiausiai-uzkliuva-gejai.d?id=41745149
  13. ^ Lithuanian mayor bans gay rally, BBC News, 26, October 2007
  14. ^ "Lithuania – Amnesty International Report 2008". Amnesty International. Retrieved 9 October 2009. 
  15. ^ http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,5540305,00.html
  16. ^ http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gB8TJlMBmHEBjfFk12j-OCOa3iewD9FINCM00
  17. ^ http://www.eu2013.lt/en/presidency-and-eu/what_is_the_presidency
  18. ^ http://www.lgl.lt/en/news/vilnius-municipality-objects-pride-march-along-the-central-avenue/
  19. ^ http://www.lgl.lt/en/news/vilnius-municipality-objects-pride-march-along-the-central-avenue/
  20. ^ http://www.lgl.lt/en/news/baltic-pride-2013/vilnius-regional-administrative-court-will-announce-its-ruling-on-baltic-pride-2013-on-11-april/
  21. ^ http://www.delfi.lt/news/daily/lithuania/a-zuokas-jei-teismas-lieps-homoseksualams-bus-leista-zygiuoti-gedimino-prospektu.d?id=61756307
  22. ^ http://en.delfi.lt/45768/mayor-confirmed-that-vilnius-municipality-will-execute-court-order-201345768/
  23. ^ http://en.delfi.lt/46103/police-detain-28-in-minor-incidents-during-baltic-price-2013-201346103/
  24. ^ http://www.delfi.lt/news/daily/crime/pirmasis-kovoje-su-homoseksualais-krito-v-sustauskas-po-pusvalandzio-ir-p-grazulis.d?id=61948457
  25. ^ http://en.delfi.lt/46135/baltic-pride-2013-the-march-for-equality-201346135/
  26. ^ http://tv.lrytas.lt/?id=13749342221372620185
  27. ^ "Lihtuanian MPs consider law against "promotion" of homosexuality to children". Pink News. 27 January 2009. Retrieved 9 October 2009. 
  28. ^ http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+WQ+E-2009-0060+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN
  29. ^ [2]
  30. ^ Phillips, Leigh (17 September 2009). "EU parliament condemns Lithuanian anti-gay law". EUobserver. Retrieved 18 September 2009. 
  31. ^ http://www.lithuaniatribune.com/2009/11/10/the-controversial-lithuanian-law-on-protection-of-minors-%E2%80%93-lithuanian-parliament-v-european-parliament/#comment-546
  32. ^ [3]
  33. ^ http://www.delfi.lt/news/daily/lithuania/seimas-palaimino-nepilnameciu-apsaugos-istatyma-be-nuorodos-i-homoseksualius-santykius.d?id=27105399
  34. ^ http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/lithuania_defies_eu_to_promote_family_values/
  35. ^ http://www.delfi.lt/news/ringas/lit/mkluonis-nepilnameciu-istatymo-pataisos-seima-kankina-vienos-tiesos-nostalgija.d?id=26304395
  36. ^ http://www.delfi.lt/news/daily/lithuania/nepilnameciu-apsaugos-istatyma-norima-taikyti-net-vaikams-neprieinamai-informacijai.d?id=26084253
  37. ^ http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=348492 So we propose to establish a limit that the promotion in public places is not possible in order to protect the mentioned three articles of the Constitution, but without doubt in some interior premisses those people have the right to organize events, to promote, to discuss
  38. ^ http://www.pinknews.co.uk/news/articles/2005-13242.html
  39. ^ http://www.delfi.lt/news/daily/lithuania/pgrazulis-buria-seimo-narius-pries-geju-eitynes.d?id=29873979
  40. ^ http://www.ve.lt/naujienos/lietuva/lietuvos-naujienos/parlamentaras-petras-grazulis-del-homoseksualu-eityniu-kreipesi-i-vaiko-teisiu-apsaugos-institucijas-ir-policija-1028751
  41. ^ http://verslas.delfi.lt/media/ekspertai-pasisake-ar-nepilnameciams-galima-ziureti-eityniu-uz-lygybe-reklama.d?id=62328641
  42. ^ http://manoteises.lt/straipsnis/sprendimas-neplatinti-pasaku-primena-sovietine-cenzura/
  43. ^ http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=382799
  44. ^ http://www.gay.lt/article.php?aid=1918
  45. ^ http://verslas.delfi.lt/archive/article.php?id=38310085
  46. ^ http://www3.lrs.lt/pls/inter3/dokpaieska.showdoc_l?p_id=402018&p_query=&p_tr2=2
  47. ^ http://www.delfi.lt/news/daily/lithuania/seimas-nusiteikes-svarstyti-pgrazulio-sieki-drausti-viesa-homoseksualiu-santykiu-propagavima.d?id=38492797
  48. ^ http://www.delfi.lt/news/daily/lithuania/pgrazulio-noras-uzdrausti-homoseksualiu-santykiu-propagavima-nesulauke-ne-vieno-salininko.d?id=43306725
  49. ^ http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2013/09/11/lithuania-parliament-to-consider-five-separate-anti-gay-and-anti-trans-bills
  50. ^ Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania
  51. ^ [4]
  52. ^ http://www.delfi.lt/news/daily/lithuania/transseksuales-isgyvenimus-teismas-ivertino-30-tukst-lt.d?id=25447649
  53. ^ [5]
  54. ^ [6]
  55. ^ The Lithuanian National Television portal
  56. ^ Homoseksualai per Europos rinkimus rems vieną kandidatę - feministę. http://www.lrytas.lt/-12429024151240574311-homoseksualai-per-europos-rinkimus-rems-vien%C4%85-kandidat%C4%99-feminist%C4%99.htm
  57. ^ Europos liberalai siekia sustabdyti homofobišką nepilnamečių apsaugos įstatymą, http://www.donskis.lt/p/lt/1/1_/16/
  58. ^ http://www.kraujodonoryste.lt/pdf/questionnaire_for_donors_of_blood(EN).pdf