A civil partnership bill, recognising same-sex unions, has been registered in the Lithuanian parliament, Seimas.
The bill, tabled on Friday, defines a civil partnership as “the fact of cohabitation of two persons (partners), registered in accordance with the procedure established by legal acts, for the purpose of establishing and (or) developing, and protecting the relationship of the partners”. Both same-sex and opposite-sex couples could enter into civil partnership.
Same-sex partnership remains a contested issue in the country, with opponents arguing that it would undermine traditional family.
Crucially, the civil partnership bill does not make reference to “family” and does not allow partners to adopt children.
According to the bill, partnership is a relationship based on “a constant emotional attachment, mutual understanding, responsibility, assistance, respect and/or similar relationships and a voluntary commitment to assume certain rights and responsibilities”.
“There are approximately 600,000 unmarried adults in Lithuania and many of them wait for policymakers to fulfill expectations born 20 years ago when the institution of civil partnership was established in the Civil Code,” said Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, the speaker of the parliament and one of the initiators of the bill.
“My stance is clear – we will not have a fully functioning society if we stigmatise its individual groups and give them different rights. It is shortsighted and morally irresponsible. New rights conferred to the people who do not enjoy these rights at present will not affect the rights enjoyed by others in any way,” Čmilytė-Nielsen is quoted in a press release.
She pointed out that, by adopting the bill, Lithuania would become the 21st EU member state to regulate civil partnership.
According to Aušrinė Armonaitė, economy minister and the leader of the Freedom Party, the aim of the bill is to “ensure equality before the law, dignity and equal treatment for all couples, including LGBT”.
“We hope that Lithuania will finally join the club of the countries that guarantee the rights of all of their citizens and the partnership law will not just implement important legal changes, but will also show that we can accept diversity in Lithuania and no one deserves to be marginalised,” she added.
Conservative MP Andrius Navickas said that “the law on civil partnership is not something invented by Lithuania as the countries, which have not been affected by the Communist totalitarianism, adopted such laws decades ago”.
According to Navickas, policymakers “managed to agree on a moderate bill that does not conflict with any provisions of the Constitution and does not change the notions of family or marriage. It just provides a possibility of a safer, more defined and more dignified life for those couples that do not want or cannot assume marital obligations.”
Property relations, representation
According to the press release, the proposed law will govern property and non-property relations of people who cohabitate but are unmarried, including their title to property, inheritance, etc.
Among other things, partners would be permitted to adopt either of their surnames as their common surname or use a double surname, would have a possibility to act on each other’s behalf and in each other’s interests, represent each other in healthcare institutions, receive information related to the partner’s health, not to give evidence against each other in court, etc.
A registered partnership could be dissolved by a notary as long as there are no children involved. However, partners would have to go to court if they have minor children.
The bill would not modify the existing legal framework related to the adoption of children.
If it passes, the partnership law will come into force on January 1, 2022.
Currently, Lithuanian laws do not recognise either opposite-sex or same-sex civil partnerships.