Lithuania proposes watered-down ‘civil unions’ compromise after MPs reject same-sex partnerships

People hold flags and balloons as they take part in the Baltic Pride 2016 in Vilnius, Lithuania.

A law planning to replace the concept of same-sex partnerships with civil union has been registered by the parliament in Lithuania.

The Civil Union Bill, which aims to set a compromise for the rejected Partnership Bill proposed last spring, replaces the terminology of “same-sex partnerships” with phrases like “civil unions”.

It’s an attempt at “securing broader support for the recognition of gender-neutral civil relationships“, according to its initiators.

Radvile Morkuunaite-Mikuleniene, head of the Homeland Union Lithuanian Christian Democrats’ political group, said “we have been long discussing whether our society is capable of accepting people with different choices.

“It is very important to notice every person in Lithuania and reflect the reality, so this bill was born out of our discussions and listening to the mood of the public,” he continues.

More specifically, the draft refers to a civil union as “a voluntary agreement between two persons, registered following the procedure laid down by legislation, by which they seek to establish, develop, and protect their relationship”.

This and several other amendments from the originally proposed bill would mean that certain stipulations otherwise present in a same-sex relationship wouldn’t be authorised, such as the allowance for same-sex partners to change their surnames.

It also does not allow for the possibility of adoption, recognition of paternity, or the exercise of parental authority.

Vytautas Mitalas, head of the Freedom Union’s political group, spoke to The Baltic Times on how the new bill differs from the mindset of their party, admitting that “we have come to a conclusion, driven by the brutal mathematics of the Seimas, one what kind of law needs to be tabled in order to pass through all the stages in the parliament”.

Despite their drawbacks, civil unions still allow partners to sign a notarial agreement in which they determine property rights and obligations during and/or after the civil union ends.

Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights chair Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius refuses to sign the draft, saying it’s “full of compromises”, but still chooses to vote for it.

“I have always wanted more rights for couples, not more compromises,” he said. “Such a solution is better than no solution.”

Critics of gender-neutral partnerships have professed their reluctance to vote for the bill, emphasising that “it is not the right time” to debate a bill that would “antagonise society”, eluding to Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Currently, Lithuanian laws do not recognise opposite-sex and same-sex civil partnerships despite the Liberal party’s emphasis to legislate them.