VILNIUS – A group of Lithuanian MPs, whose first attempt to get same-sex relationship recognized in law failed a year ago, have drafted a bill that would allow couples to enter into a civil union instead of the previously proposed partnership.
The initiators describe the new bill as a compromise aimed at securing broader support for the recognition of gender-neutral civil relationship.
"We have been long discussing whether our society is capable of accepting people with different choices, and 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," Radvile Morkunaite-Mikuleniene, head of the Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats' political group in the Seimas, told a news conference on Monday.
Vytautas Mitalas, head of the Freedom Union's political group, admitted that the new bill differs from the liberal party's idea of what a partnership institute should look like, but said it is a compromise to muster enough votes to move forward.
"We have come to a conclusion, driven by the brutal mathematics of the Seimas, on what kind of law needs to be tabled in order to pass through all the stages in the parliament," he said.
The new draft proposes scrapping the definition of partnership in the "Family Book" of the Civil Code and calling the newly proposed institution a civil union.
A civil union would be defined as a voluntary agreement between two persons to legally protect their personal relationship.
Partners in a civil union would not be able to share a surname.
Their agreement would be registered with a notary, rather than with the civil registry office.
The bill would ensure the right of both same-sex and opposite-sex couples to enter into a civil union and would provide legal protection for their personal property and non-property relations.
Among other things, the law would exempt civil union partners from having to pay inheritance taxes, and would give them the right to act on each other's behalf and in each other's interests, represent each other in healthcare institutions and be informed about their partner's health.
The relationship between the partners in a civil union would be based on the principles of "monogamy, voluntariness and equality" and the partners would have to commit themselves to respecting each other, supporting each other morally and materially, and contributing to the common needs of the couple.
In the spring of 2021, the parliament voted down the previous bill that would have legally recognized "gender-neutral" partnership.
The initiators said after the vote that they would come up with a new, improved draft law.
The rejected bill would have allowed both opposite-sex and same-sex couples to enter into civil partnership, which was defined as the officially registered fact of cohabitation between two individuals for the purpose of establishing, developing and protecting their relationship.
Critics of the bill said that the proposed partnership model was no different from marriage and that it would undermine traditional family if passed.
Opponents of gender-neutral partnership now say that it is not the right time to debate a new bill that would antagonize society, which could be dangerous in the context of Russia's war against Ukraine.
Currently, Lithuanian laws do not recognize either opposite-sex or same-sex civil partnerships. Several previous attempts by liberal politicians to legislate civil partnerships fell through at an early stage of the parliamentary process.