VILNIUS – The Lithuanian parliament on Thursday agreed to debate two alternative bills aimed at legally regulating the relationship between unmarried people living together.
The draft Law on Civil Union, registered by the ruling bloc's MPs as a compromise to their previous bill on civil partnerships, passed the first reading in the parliament with 70 votes in favor, 49 against and six abstentions.
Draft amendments to the Civil Code on "close relationship", tabled by a group of MPs opposing partnerships, passed the first reading with 70 votes in favor, 23 against and 30 abstentions.
Both bills will now go to parliamentary committees and should return to the full parliament for a plenary debate on June 21.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN BILLS
MP Jurgita Sejoniene of the conservative Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats said while presenting the civil union bill that the draft is basic, setting out only the minimum provisions for "a morally and socially just life together without marriage”.
"The bill is different from what the previously tabled [Partnership Law] and I am asking you to look favorably on this consensus. This draft regulates the common principles: monogamy, voluntariness, equality, legitimate expectations. It will only concern those people for whom it is relevant, and will not affect the rest of our fellow citizens in any way," she said.
The MP also noted that the proposal to recognize civil unions is relevant for same-sex and opposite-sex couple alike.
"The majority of people in Lithuania do not need such a legal regulation, but there are about half a million unmarried young people in Lithuania," she said.
MP Paulius Saudargas of the Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats presented the alternative draft on "close relationship", stressing that, unlike the other bill, it draws a clear distinction between unmarried couples and family relations.
"We recognize that personal relationships, not just property relationships, between people living together must be protected, which is why we propose to legally recognize close relationships," said Saudargas, who is opposed to authorizing same-sex partnership.
"The bill on close relationship does not create a family relationship, while a civil union gives an impression of creating a family relationship," he said.
PARTNERSHIP NOT ALLOWED FOR ANY COUPLES
The draft Law on Civil Union bill provides for scrapping the definition of partnership in the "Family Book" of the Civil Code and replacing it with a civil union, a new institution defined as a voluntary agreement between two individuals to legally protect their personal relationship.
The bill was tabled by the leaders of the ruling bloc's political groups in the Seimas as a compromise after a draft law on partnerships was rejected by the parliament a year ago.
Politicians opposed to the partnership bill have criticized the new version as well, and registered the draft amendments to the Civil Code as an alternative.
The proposed amendments, tabled by over 20 MPs, define a close relationship as "a person's relationship with another person arising from a stable and trusting personal social bond".
The authors of the amendments say such a relationship would cover not only family members and close relatives, but also persons who have entered into a cohabitation agreement and those who have a guardianship, custodial or maintenance arrangement.
In the spring of 2021, the Seimas voted down the previous bill that would have legally recognized "gender-neutral" partnership.
The rejected draft Law on Partnership 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.
Currently, Lithuanian laws do not recognize either opposite-sex or same-sex civil partnerships. Several previous attempts by liberal politicians to legalize civil partnerships fell through at an early stage of the parliamentary process.