VILNIUS - Legislation drafted by conservative politicians is set to discriminate against single parents if it becomes law, family rights campaigners claimed.
Conservatives have drafted a parliamentary bill which legally defines the family as a man and woman legally married in the traditional sense. This would disregard other family types 's such as single parents, unmarried or divorced parents or legal guardians caring for children.
Esmeralda Kuliesyte, executive director of the Family Planning and Sexual Health Association, says this bill will have dire effects if it is passed into law.
"This will put unnecessary psychological pressure on parents and on children who will feel stigmatized for no reason that they can understand," Kuliesyte said.
Conservatives are adamant that the law is needed. Paulius Saudargas, vice-chairman of the Christian Democrat Party, said that this bill, if it becomes law, will protect all children.
"[The bill] will support the family and children. It will protect the children and help us to educate them in the best possible way," Saudargas said.
Opinion polls show that the public is against the bill despite support from the Catholic Church. A recent poll by Veidas magazine showed that a resounding 74 percent of survey participants believed that single mothers should be considered a 'family.'
The bill, which is called the State Family Policy Concept, is the first of its kind in Europe. At present, the legal definition of a family is a married couple, or cohabiting couple, or a single parent who is bringing up a child.
At the moment, a 'family' can receive support for their child 's the support can be given for all minors under the age of 18 regardless of income.
Kuliesyte believes that single-mother families will suffer if the bill is passed. While the expert said that she cannot know the potential effects of this bill being passed, she thinks that it will result in a snowball effect.
"We don't know if this will end up with less government support, but we are afraid of what it could be," Kuliesyte said.
"This will be the first of many papers and we have great fears," she said.
Representatives from the recently merged Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats Party said that there is a very clear definition of family and this must be respected and adhered to.
"A family is a man and a woman, married, supporting children 's we are very clear on this," Saudargas said. The Christian Democrats insist that all flaws in the bill will be ironed out.
"This is one of the weak points in the strategy and that would have to be amended along the way," Saudargas said.
"Children will have to be supported in another way," Saudargas added.
The bill passed its first reading on May 22.
There is also a proposal being considered at the moment whereby children from low income families could receive free meals at school. This could potentially change if the law is passed. This support would be provided for children both from the full or single parent families.