VILNIUS - Lithuanian Parliament passed an amendment to the Citizenship Law, submitted by President Valdas Adamkus, allowing the president to grant citizenship by way of derogation in cases related to public interest or "putting Lithuania's name on the map." The amendment was a response to public outrage over Adamkus' earlier decision - which was based on the Citizenship Law - to deny American Kathryn Douglas, leader of the Vilnius basketball club Teo, Lithuanian nationality.
The American was hoping to gain citizenship by way of derogation.On July 17, after meeting with Lithuania's Citizenship Commission, the president announced that, due to provisions under the Law on Citizenship, he was unable to grant Douglas nationality.
The announcement caused uproar among Lithuania's athletes and political figures, because, without citizenship, Douglas could no longer play on the national team during the World Women's Basketball Championship, scheduled for Brazil next month. What's more, the women's team is preparing to compete in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing for the first time.
The 27-year-old was invited to play for the U.S. national team but declined, expressing her willingness to represent Lithuania.
In an open letter to the president, which was sent on July 18, Lithuanian athletes, politicians and well-known figures urged Adamkus to grant the basketball star citizenship.
They emphasized the fact that Douglas, one of the world's best basketball players, had played in the Baltic state for two seasons already. Furthermore, they argued, Douglas has been recognized as one of the Euroleague's Most Valuable Players for two years in a row, and has been invited to play for the Women's NBA All Stars East team.
The letter was signed by National Olympic Committee President Arturas Poviliunas, Lithuanian Basketball Federation President Vladas Garastas, Sydney and Athens Olympic discus champion Virgilijus Alekna, and several parliamentarians 's representing different groups - among others.
According to the president's press secretary, Rita Grumadaite, the previous Law on Citizenship did not define any legal preconditions for granting citizenship to a person by way of derogation for "probable or future merits of the person." Thus, Adamkus proposed asking Parliament to amend the Law on Citizenship.
In May 2005, Adamkus awarded Douglas with the Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits for "putting Lithuania's name on the map" through her good sports merit, will and determination. She was also acknowledged for "helping Lithuania seek victories in the 2004-2005 FIBA Euroleague Women's Championship."