VILNIUS - A lawmaker and the Migration Department's director say they agree that same-sex marriages registered abroad can serve as a basis for foreign spouses to reside lawfully in Lithuania, but underline that this would not grant them any other rights.
Valerijus Simulikas, chairman of the parliament's Committee on Human Rights, and Evelina Gudzinskaite, the department's director, stated the position before the Constitutional Court on Thursday.
"The right to live in the country does not, in itself, grant other rights under other laws," Gudzinskaite told the court. "There must be a strict separation."
The Constitutional Court is hearing a case referred to it by the Lithuanian Supreme Administrative Court, which examines an appeal filed by a foreigner, who married a Lithuanian citizen of the same sex in Denmark three years ago, against the Migration Department's decision to refuse him a residence permit.
The court is looking at whether a marriage or partnership registered abroad can be the basis for issuing a temporary residence permit in Lithuania if one of the spouses or partners holds such a permit.
Homosexuals married abroad have until now had no legal right to join their spouses living in Lithuania. The Migration Department has refused to issue residence permits to such people on the grounds that same-sex marriages and partnerships are not allowed in Lithuania.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled in June that same-sex partners of EU citizens have the right to reside in any EU member states, even if it does not recognize same-sex marriages.
Gudzinskaite says that despite the EU court's ruling, the department still cannot issue the appellant with a residence permit, because it cannot reverse its earlier decision, which has been suspended pending the court's ruling, and no new request for a residence permit has been filed.
In presenting the position of the parliament's law experts, Simulikas also underlined that a permit for a family member to live in Lithuania does not oblige the country to change the concept of "family" under its constitution, which could only be done by referendum or by a vote by a constitutional majority in the Seimas.
Therefore, the Seimas does not object to issuing same-sex people married abroad with residence permits on a family reunion basis, he said.
"In the Seimas' understanding, this is permissible and does not run counter to the Constitution," the lawmaker told the court. "I believe, yes, a permit should have been issued in this case."
The Lithuanian Constitution reads that marriage is concluded "upon the free mutual consent of man and woman".
The Constitutional Court is expected to issue its ruling within a month.